Sceptical Chymist/The Fifth Part
HEre Carneades making a pause, I must not deny (sayes his Friend to him) that I think You have sufficiently prov’d that these distinct Substances which Chymists are wont to obtain from Mixt Bodies, by their Vulgar Destillation, are not pure and simple enough to deserve, in Rigour of speaking, the Name of Elements, or Principles. But I suppose You have heard, that there are some Modern Spagyrists, who give out that they can by further and more Skilfull Purifications, so reduce the separated Ingredients of Mixt Bodies to an Elementary simplicity, That(284) the Oyles (for Instance) extracted from all Mixts shall as perfectly resemble one another, as the Drops of Water do.
If you remember (replies Carneades) that at the Beginning of our Conference with Philoponus, I declar’d to him before the rest of the Company, that I would not engage my self at present to do any more then examine the usual proofs alledg’d by Chymists, for the Vulgar doctrine of their three Hypostatical Principles; You will easily perceive that I am not oblig’d to make answer to what you newly propos’d; and that it rather grants, then disproves what I have been contending for: Since by pretending to make so great a change in the reputed Principles that Destillation affords the common Spagyrists, ’tis plainly enough presuppos’d, that before such Artificial Depurations be made, the Substances to be made more simple were not yet simple enough to be look’d upon as Elementary; Wherefore in case the Artists you speak of could perform what they give out they can, yet I should not need to be asham’d of having question’d the Vulgar Opinion(285) touching the tria Prima. And as to the thing it self, I shall freely acknowledge to you, that I love not to be forward in determining things to be impossible, till I know and have consider’d the means by which they are propos’d to be effected. And therefore I shall not peremptorily deny either the possibility of what these Artists promise, or my Assent to any just Inference; however destructive to my Conjectures, that may be drawn from their performances. But give me leave to tell you withall, that because such promises are wont (as Experience has more then once inform’d me) to be much more easily made, then made good by Chymists, I must withhold my Beliefe from their assertions, till their Experiments exact it; and must not be so easie as to expect before hand, an unlikely thing upon no stronger Inducements then are yet given me: Besides that I have not yet found by what I have heard of these Artists, that though they pretend to bring the several Substances into which the Fire has divided the Concrete, to an exquisite simplicity, They pretend also to be able by the Fire to divide all Concretes,(286) Minerals, and others, into the same number of Distinct Substances. And in the mean time I must think it improbable, that they can either truly separate as many differing Bodies from Gold (for Instance) or Osteocolla, as we can do from Wine, or Vitriol; or that the Mercury (for Example) of Gold or Saturn would be perfectly of the same Nature with that of Harts-horn; and that the sulphur of Antimony would be but Numerically different from the Distill’d butter or oyle of Roses.
But suppose (sayes Eleutherius) that you should meet with Chymists, who would allow you to take in Earth and Water into the number of the principles of Mixt Bodies; and being also content to change the Ambiguous Name of Mercury for that more intelligible one of spirit, should consequently make the principles of Compound Bodies to be Five; would you not think it something hard to reject so plausible an Opinion, only because the Five substances into which the Fire divides mixt Bodies are not exactly pure, and Homogeneous? For my part(287) (Continues Carneades) I cannot but think it somewhat strange, in case this Opinion be not true, that it should fall out so luckily, that so great a Variety of Bodies should be Analyz’d by the Fire into just five Distinct substances; which so little differing from the Bodies that bear those names, may so Plausibly be call’d Oyle, Spirit, Salt, Water, and Earth.
The Opinion You now propose (answers Carneades) being another then that I was engag’d to examine, it is not requisite for me to Debate it at present; nor should I have leisure to do it thorowly. Wherefore I shall only tell you in General, that though I think this Opinion in some respects more defensible then that of the Vulgar Chymists; yet you may easily enough learn from the past Discourse what may be thought of it: Since many of the Objections made against the Vulgar Doctrine of the Chymists seem, without much alteration, employable against this Hypothesis also. For, besides that this Doctrine does as well as the other take it for granted, (what is not easie to be prov’d) that the Fire is the true and Adequate Ana(288)lyzer of Bodies, and that all the Distinct substances obtainable from a mixt Body by the Fire, were so pre-existent in it, that they were but extricated from each other by the Analysis; Besides that this Opinion, too, ascribe to the Productions of the Fire an Elementary simplicity, which I have shewn not to belong to them; and besides that this Doctrine is lyable to some of the other Difficulties, wherewith That of the Tria Prima is incumber’d; Besides all this, I say, this quinary number of Elements, (if you pardon the Expression) ought at least to have been restrain’d to the Generality of Animal and Vegetable Bodies, since not only among these there are some Bodies (as I formerly argu’d) which, for ought has yet been made to appear, do consist, either of fewer or more similar substances then precisely Five. But in the Mineral Kingdom, there is scarce one Concrete that has been evinc’d to be adequatly divisible into such five Principles or Elements, and neither more nor less, as this Opinion would have every mixt Body to consist of.
And this very thing (continues Car(289)neades) may serve to take away or lessen your Wonder, that just so many Bodies as five should be found upon the Resolution of Concretes. For since we find not that the fire can make any such Analysis (into five Elements) of Metals and other Mineral Bodies, whose Texture is more strong and permanent, it remains that the Five Substances under consideration be Obtain’d from Vegetable and Animal Bodies, which (probably by reason of their looser Contexture) are capable of being Distill’d. And as to such Bodies, ’tis natural enough, that, whether we suppose that there are, or are not, precisely five Elements, there should ordinarily occurr in the Dissipated parts a five Fold Diversity of Scheme (if I may so speak.) For if the Parts do not remain all fix’d, as in Gold, Calcin’d Talck, &c. nor all ascend, as in the Sublimation of Brimstone, Camphire, &c. but after their Dissipation do associate themselves into new Schemes of Matter; it is very likely, that they will by the Fire be divided into fix’d and Volatile (I mean, in Reference to that degree of heat by which they are destill’d) and those Volatile(290) parts will, for the most part, ascend either in a dry forme, which Chymists are pleas’d to call, if they be Tastless, Flowers; if Sapid, Volatile Salt; or in a Liquid Forme. And this Liquor must be either inflamable, and so pass for oyl, or not inflamable, and yet subtile and pungent, which may be call’d Spirit; or else strengthless or insipid, which may be nam’d Phlegme, or Water. And as for the fixt part, or Caput Mortuum, it will most commonly consist of Corpuscles, partly Soluble in Water, or Sapid, (especially if the Saline parts were not so Volatile, as to fly away before) which make up its fixt salt; and partly insoluble and insipid, which therefore seems to challenge the name of Earth. But although upon this ground one might easily enough have foretold, that the differing substances obtain’d from a perfectly mixt Body by the Fire would for the most part be reducible to the five newly mentioned States of Matter; yet it will not presently follow, that these five Distinct substances were simple and primogeneal bodies, so pre-existent in the Concrete that the fire does but take them asunder. Besides(291) that it does not appear, that all Mixt Bodies, (witness, Gold, Silver, Mercury, &c.) Nay nor perhaps all Vegetables, which may appear by what we said above of Camphire, Benzoin, &c. are resoluble by Fire into just such differing Schemes of Matter. Nor will the Experiments formerly alledg’d permit us to look upon these separated Substances as Elementary, or uncompounded. Neither will it be a sufficient Argument of their being Bodies that deserve the Names which Chymists are pleas’d to give them, that they have an Analogy in point of Consistence, or either Volatility or Fixtness, or else some other obvious Quality, with the suppos’d Principles, whose names are ascrib’d to them. For, as I told you above, notwithstanding this Resemblance in some one Quality, there may be such a Disparity in others, as may be more fit to give them Differing Appellations, then the Resemblance is to give them one and the same. And indeed it seems but somewhat a gross Way of judging of the Nature of Bodies, to conclude without Scruple, that those must be of the same(292) Nature that agree in some such General Quality, as Fluidity, Dryness, Volatility, and the like: since each of those Qualities, or States of Matter, may Comprehend a great Variety of Bodies, otherwise of a very differing Nature; as we may see in the Calxes of Gold, of Vitriol, and of Venetian Talck, compar’d with common Ashes, which yet are very dry, and fix’d by the vehemence of the Fire, as well as they. And as we may likewise gather from what I have formerly Observ’d, touching the Spirit of Box-Wood, which though a Volatile, Sapid, and not inflamable Liquor, as well as the Spirits of Harts-horn, of Blood and others, (and therefore has been hitherto call’d, the Spirit, and esteem’d for one of the Principles of the Wood that affords it;) may yet, as I told You, be subdivided into two Liquors, differing from one another, and one of them at least, from the Generality of other Chymical Spirits.
But you may your self, if you please, (pursues Carneades) accommodate to the Hypothesis you propos’d what other particulars you shall think applicable to it,(293) in the foregoing Discourse. For I think it unseasonable for me to meddle now any further with a Controversie, which since it does not now belong to me, Leaves me at Liberty to Take my Own time to Declare my Self about it.
Eleutherius perceiving that Carneades was somewhat unwilling to spend any more time upon the debate of this Opinion, and having perhaps some thoughts of taking hence a Rise to make him Discourse it more fully another time, thought not fit as then to make any further mention to him of the propos’d opinion, but told him;
I presume I need not mind you, Carneades, That both the Patrons of the ternary number of Principles, and those that would have five Elements, endeavour to back their experiments with a specious Reason or two; and especially some of those Embracers of the Opinion last nam’d (whom I have convers’d with, and found them Learned men) assigne this Reason of the necessity of five distinct Elements; that otherwise mixt Bodies could not be so compounded and temper’d as to obtain a due consi(294)stence and competent Duration. For Salt (say they) is the Basis of Solidity; and Permanency in Compound Bodies, without which the other four Elements might indeed be variously and loosly blended together, but would remain incompacted; but that Salt might be dissolv’d into minute Parts, and convey’d to the other Substances to be compacted by it, and with it, there is a Necessity of Water. And that the mixture may not be too hard and brittle, a Sulphureous or Oyly Principle must intervene to make the mass more tenacious; to this a Mercurial spirit must be superadded; which by its activity may for a while premeate, and as it were leaven the whole Mass, and thereby promote the more exquisite mixture and incorporation of the Ingredients. To all which (lastly) a portion of Earth must be added, which by its drinesse and poracity may soak up part of that water wherein the Salt was dissolv’d, and eminently concurr with the other ingredients to give the whole body the requisite consistence.
I perceive (sayes Carneades smiling) that if it be true, as ’twas lately rooted from the Proverb, That good Wits have(295) bad Memories, You have that Title, as well as a better, to a place among the good Wits. For you have already more then once forgot, that I declar’d to you that I would at this Conference Examine only the Experiments of my Adversaries, not their Speculative Reasons. Yet ’tis not (Subjoynes Carneades) for fear of medling with the Argument you have propos’d, that I decline the examining it at present. For if when we are more at leasure, you shall have a mind that we may Solemnly consider of it together; I am confident we shall scarce find it insoluble. And in the mean time we may observe, that such a way of Arguing may, it seems, be speciously accommodated to differing Hypotheses. For I find that Beguinus, and other Assertors of the Tria Prima, pretend to make out by such a way, the requisiteness of their Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, to constitute mixt Bodies, without taking notice of any necessity of an Addition of Water and Earth.
And indeed neither sort of Chymists seem to have duly consider’d how great Variety there is in the Textures and(296) Consistences of Compound Bodie; sand how little the consistence and Duration of many of them seem to accommodate and be explicable by the propos’d Notion. And not to mention those almost incorruptible Substances obtainable by the Fire, which I have prov’d to be somewhat compounded, and which the Chymists will readily grant not to be perfectly mixt Bodies: (Not to mention these, I say) If you will but recall to mind some of those Experiments, whereby I shew’d You that out of common Water only mixt Bodies (and even living ones) of very differing consistences, and resoluble by Fire into as many Principles as other bodies acknowledg’d to be perfectly mixt; if you do this, I say, you will not, I suppose, be averse from beleeving, that Nature by a convenient disposition of the minute parts of a portion of matter may contrive bodies durable enough, and of this, or that, or the other Consistence, without being oblig’d to make use of all, much less of any Determinate quantity of each of the five Elements, or of the three Principles to compound such bodies of. And I have (pursues Carne(297)ades) something wonder’d, Chymists should not consider, that there is scarce any body in Nature so permanent and indissoluble as Glass; which yet themselves teach us may be made of bare Ashes, brought to fusion by the meer Violence of the Fire; so that, since Ashes are granted to consist but of pure Salt and simple Earth, sequestred from all the other Principles or Elements, they must acknowledge, That even Art it self can of two Elements only, or, if you please, one Principle and one Element, compound a Body more durable then almost any in the World. Which being undeniable, how will they prove that Nature cannot compound Mixt Bodies, and even durable Ones, under all the five Elements or material Principles.
But to insist any longer on this Occasional Disquisition, Touching their Opinion that would Establish five Elements, were to remember as little as You did before, that the Debate of this matter is no part of my first undertaking; and consequently, that I have already spent time enough in what I look back upon but as a digression, or at best an Excursion.(298) And thus, Eleutherius, (sayes Carneades) having at length gone through the four Considerations I propos’d to Discourse unto you, I hold it not unfit, for fear my having insisted so long on each of them may have made you forget their Series, briefly to repeat them by telling you, that
Since, in the first place, it may justly be doubted whether or no the Fire be, as Chymists suppose it, the genuine and Universal Resolver of mixt Bodies;
Since we may doubt, in the next place, whether or no all the Distinct Substances that may be obtain’d from a mixt body by the Fire were pre-existent there in the formes in which they were separated from it;
Since also, though we should grant the Substances separable from mixt Bodies by the fire to have been their component Ingredients, yet the Number of such substances does not appear the same in all mixt Bodies; some of them being Resoluble into more differing substances than three, and Others not being Resoluble into so many as three.
And Since, Lastly, those very substances that are thus separated are not for the(299) most part pure and Elementary bodies, but new kinds of mixts;
Since, I say, these things are so, I hope you will allow me to inferr, that the Vulgar Experiments (I might perchance have Added, the Arguments too) wont to be Alledg’d by Chymists to prove, that their three Hypostatical Principles do adequately compose all mixt Bodies, are not so demonstrative as to reduce a wary Person to acquiesce in their Doctrine, which, till they Explain and prove it better, will by its perplexing darkness be more apt to puzzle then satisfy considering men, and will to them appear incumbred with no small Difficulties.
And from what has been hitherto deduc’d (continues Carneades) we may Learn, what to Judge of the common Practice of those Chymists, who because they have found that Diverse compound Bodies (for it will not hold in All) can be resolv’d into, or rather can be brought to afford two or three differing Substances more then the Soot and Ashes, whereinto the naked fire commonly divides them in our Chymnies, cry up their own Sect for the Invention of a New Philosophy, some of them, as Helmont, &c. styling(300) themselves Philosophers by the Fire; and the most part not only ascribing, but as far as in them lies, engrossing to those of their Sect the Title of PHILOSOPHERS.
But alas, how narrow is this Philosophy, that reaches but to some of those compound Bodies, which we find but upon, or in the crust or outside of our terrestrial Globe, which is it self but a point in comparison of the vast extended Universe, of whose other and greater parts the Doctrine of the Tria Prima does not give us an Account! For what does it teach us, either of the Nature of the Sun, which Astronomers affirme to be eight-score and odd times bigger then the whole Earth? or of that of those numerous fixt Starrs, which, for ought we know, would very few, if any of them, appear inferiour in bulke and brightness to the Sun, if they were as neer us as He? What does the knowing that Salt, sulphur and Mercury, are the Principles of Mixt Bodies, informe us of the Nature of that vast, fluid, and Ætherial Substance, that seemes to make up the interstellar, and consequently much the greatest part of the World? for as for(301) the opinion commonly ascrib’d to Paracelsus, as if he would have not only the four Peripatetick Elements, but even the Celestial parts of the Universe to consist of his three Principles, since the modern Chymists themselves have not thought so groundless a conceit worth their owning, I shall not think it Worth my confuting.
But I should perchance forgive the Hypothesis I have been all this while examining, if, though it reaches but to a very little part of the World, it did at least give us a satisfactory account of those things to which ’tis said to reach. But I find not, that it gives us any other then a very imperfect information even about mixt Bodies themselves: For how will the knowledge of the Tria Prima discover to us the Reason, why the Loadstone drawes a Needle and disposes it to respect the Poles, and yet seldom precisely points at them? how will this Hypothesis teach Us how a Chick is formed in the Egge, or how the Seminal Principles of Mint, Pompions, and other Vegitables, that I mention’d to You above, can fashion Water into Various Plants, each of them endow’d with its peculiar(302) and determinate shape, and with divers specifick and discriminating Qualities? How does this Hypothesis shew us, how much Salt, how much Sulphur, and how much Mercury must be taken to make a Chick or a Pompion? and if We know that, what Principle is it, that manages these Ingredients, and contrives (for instance) such Liquors as the White and Yelk of an Egge into such a variety of Textures as is requisite to fashion the Bones, Veines, Arteries, Nerves, Tendons, Feathers, Blood, and other parts of a Chick; and not only to fashion each Limbe, but to connect them altogether, after that manner that is most congruous to the perfection of the Animal which is to Consist of Them? For to say, that some more fine and subtile part of either or all the Hypostatical Principles is the Director in all this business, and the Architect of all this Elaborate structure, is to give one occasion to demand again, what proportion and way of mixture of the Tria Prima afforded this Architectonick Spirit, and what Agent made so skilful and happy a mixture? And the Answer to this Question, if the Chymists will keep themselves(303) within their three Principles, will be lyable to the same Inconvenience, that the Answer to the former was. And if it were not to intrench upon the Theame of a Friend of ours here present, I could easily prosecute the Imperfections of the Vulgar Chymists Philosophy, and shew you, that by going about to explicate by their three Principles, I say not, all the abstruse Properties of mixt Bodies, but even such Obvious and more familiar Phænomena as Fluidity and Firmness, The Colours and Figures of Stones, Minerals, and other compound Bodies, The Nutrition of either Plants or Animals, the Gravity of Gold or Quicksilver compar’d with Wine or Spirit of Wine; By attempting, I say, to render a reason of these (to omit a thousand others as difficult to account for) from any proportion of the three simple Ingredients, Chymists will be much more likely to discredit themselves and their Hypothesis, then satisfy an intelligent Inquirer after Truth.
But (interposes Eleutherus) This Objection seems no more then may be made against the four Peripatetick Elements. And indeed almost against any other Hy(304)pothesis, that pretends by any Determinate Number of Material Ingredients to render a reason of the Phænomena of Nature. And as for the use of the Chymical Doctrine of the three Principles, I suppose you need not be told by me, that The great Champion of it, The Learned Sennertus,Senn. de Cons. & Dissen. p. 165. assignes this noble use of the Tria Prima, That from Them, as the neerest and most Proper Principles, may be Deduc’d and Demonstrated the Properties which are in Mixt Bodies, and which cannot be Proximately (as They speak) deduc’d from the Elements. And This, sayes he, is chiefly Apparent, when we Inquire into the Properties and Faculties of Medecines. And I know (continues Eleutherius) That the Person You have assum’d, of an Opponent of the Hermetick Doctrine, will not so far prevaile against your Native and wonted Equity, as To keep You from acknowledging that Philosophy is much beholden to the Notions and Discoveries of Chymists.
If the Chymists You speak of (Replyes Carneades) had been so modest, or so Discreet, as to propose their O(305)pinion of the Tria Prima, but as a Notion useful among Others, to increase Humane knowledge, they had deserv’d more of our thanks; and less of our Opposition; but since the Thing that they pretend is not so much to contribute a Notion toward the Improvement of Philosophy, as to make this Notion attended by a few lesse considerable ones) pass for a New Philosophy itself. Nay, since they boast so much of this phancie of theirs, that the famous Quercetanus scruples not to write, that if his most certain Doctrine of the three Principles were sufficiently Learned, Examin’d, and Cultivated, it would easily Dispel all the Darkness that benights our minds, and bring in a Clear Light, that would remove all Difficulties. This School affording Theorems and Axiomes irrefragable, and to be admitted without Dispute by impartial Judges; and so useful withal, as to exempt us from the necessity of having recourse, for want of the knowledg of causes, to that Sanctuary of the igorant, Occult Qualities; since, I say, this Domestick Notion of the Chymists is so much overvalued by them, I cannot think it unfit, they should be made(306) sensible of their mistake; and be admonish’d to take in more fruitful and comprehensive Principles, if they mean to give us an account of the Phænomena of Nature; and not confine themselves and (as far as they can) others to such narrow Principles, as I fear will scarce inable them to give an account (I mean an intelligible one) of the tenth part (I say not) of all the Phænomena of Nature; but even of all such as by the Leucippian or some of the other sorts of Principles may be plausibly enough explicated. And though I be not unwilling to grant, that the incompetency I impute to the Chymical Hypothesis is but the same which may be Objected against that of the four Elements, and divers other Doctrines that have been maintain’d by Learned men; yet since ’tis the Chymical Hypothesis only which I am now examining, I see not why, if what I impute to it be a real inconvenience, either it should cease to be so, or I should scruple to object it, because either Theories are lyable thereunto, as well as the Hermetical. For I know not why a Truth should be thought lesse a Truth for the being fit to overthrow variety of Errors.(307) I am oblig’d to You (continues Carneades, a little smiling) for the favourable Opinion You are pleas’d to express of my Equity, if there be no design in it. But I need not be tempted by an Artifice, or invited by a Complement, to acknowledge the great service that the Labours of Chymists have done the Lovers of useful Learning; nor even on this occasion shall their Arrogance hinder my Gratitude. But since we are as well examining to the truth of their Doctrine as the merit of their industry, I must in order to the investigation of the first, continue a reply, to talk at the rate of the part I have assum’d; And tell you, that when I acknowledg the usefulness of the Labours of Spagyrists to Natural Philosophy, I do it upon the score of their experiments, not upon that of Their Speculations; for it seems to me, that their Writings, as their Furnaces, afford as well smoke as light; and do little lesse obscure some subjects, then they illustrate others. And though I am unwilling to deny, that ’tis difficult for a man to be an Accomplisht Naturalist, that is a stranger to Chymistry, yet I look upon the common Operations and practices(308) of Chymists, almost as I do on the Letters of the Alphabet, without whose knowledge ’tis very hard for a man to become a Philosopher; and yet that knowledge is very far from being sufficient to make him One.
But (sayes Carneades, resuming a more serious Look) to consider a little more particularly what you alledg in favour of the Chymical Doctrine of the Tria Prima, though I shall readily acknowledge it not to be unuseful, and that the Divisers and Embracers of it have done the Common-Wealth of Learning some service, by helping to destroy that excessive esteem, or rather veneration, wherewith the Doctrine of the four Elements was almost as generally as undeservedly entertain’d; yet what has been alledg’d concerning the usefulness of the Tria Prima, seems to me liable to no contemptible Difficulties.
And first, as for the very way of Probation, which the more Learned and more Sober Champions of the Chymical cause employ to evince the Chymical Principles in Mixt Bodies, it seems to me to be farr enough from being convincing. This grand and leading Argument, your(309) Sennertus Himself, who layes Great weight upon it, and tells us, that the most Learned Philosophers employ this way of Reasoning to prove the most important things, proposes thus: Ubicunque (sayes he) pluribus eædem affectiones & qualitates insunt, per commune quoddam Principium insint necesse est, sicut omnia sunt Gravia propter terram, calida propter Ignem. At Colores, Odores, Sapores, esse φλογιϛον & similia alia, mineralibus, Metallis, Gemmis, Lapidibus, Plantis, Animalibus insunt. Ergo per commune aliquod principium, & subiectum, insunt. At tale principium non sunt Elementa. Nullam enim habent ad tales qualitates producendas potentiam. Ergo alia principia, unde fluant, inquirenda sunt.
In the Recital of this Argument, (sayes Carneades) I therefore thought fit to retain the Language wherein the Author proposes it, that I might also retain the propriety of some Latine Termes, to which I do not readily remember any that fully answer in English. But as for the Argumentation it self, ’tis built upon a precarious supposition, that seems to me neither Demonstrable nor true; for, how does it(310) appear, that where the same Quality is to be met with in many Bodies, it must belong to them upon the Account of some one Body whereof they all partake? (For that the Major of our Authors Argument is to be Understood of the Material Ingredients of bodies, appears by the Instances of Earth and Fire he annexes to explain it.) For to begin with that very Example which he is pleas’d to alledge for himself; how can he prove, that the Gravity of all Bodies proceeds from what they participate of the Element of Earth? Since we see, that not only common Water, but the more pure Distill’d Rain Water is heavy; and Quicksilver is much heavier than Earth it self; though none of my Adversaries has yet prov’d, that it contains any of that Element. And I the Rather make use of this Example of Quicksilver, because I see not how the Assertors of the Elements will give any better Account of it then the Chymists. For if it be demanded how it comes to be Fluid, they will answer, that it participates much of the Nature of Water. And indeed, according to them, Water(311) may be the Predominant Element in it, since we see, that several Bodies which by Distillation afford Liquors that weigh more then their Caput Mortuum do not yet consist of Liquor enough to be Fluid. Yet if it be demanded how Quicksilver comes to be so heavy, then ’tis reply’d, that ’tis by reason of the Earth that abounds in it; but since, according to them, it must consist also of air, and partly of Fire, which they affirm to be light Elements, how comes it that it should be so much heavier then Earth of the same bulk, though to fill up the porosities and other Cavities it be made up into a mass or paste with Water, which it self they allow to be a heavy Element. But to returne to our Spagyrists, we see that Chymical Oyles and fixt Salts, though never so exquisitely purify’d and freed from terrestrial parts, do yet remain ponderous enough. And Experience has inform’d me, that a pound, for instance, of some of the heaviest Woods, as Guajacum that will sink in Water, being burnt to Ashes will yield a much less weight of them (whereof I found but a small part to be Alcalyzate) then much ligh(312)ter Vegetables: As also that the black Charcoal of it will not sink as did the wood, but swim; which argues that the Differing Gravity of Bodies proceeds chiefly from their particular Texture, as is manifest in Gold, the closest and Compactest of Bodies, which is many times heavier then we can possibly make any parcell of Earth of the same Bulk. I will not examine, what may be argu’d touching the Gravity or Quality Analagous thereunto, of even Celestial bodies, from the motion of the spots about the Sun, d from the appearing equality of the suppos’d Seas in the Moon; nor consider how little those Phæmonea would agree with what Sennertus presumes concerning Gravity. But further to invalidate his supposition, I shall demand, upon what Chymical Principle Fluidity depends? And yet Fluidity is, two or three perhaps excepted, the most diffused quality of the universe, and far more General then almost any other of those that are to be met with in any of the Chymicall Principles, or Aristotelian Elements; since not only the Air, but that vast expansion we call Heaven, in comparison of which(313) our Terrestrial Globe (supposing it were all Solid) is but a point; and perhaps to the Sun and the fixt Stars are fluid bodies. I demand also, from which of the Chymical Principles Motion flowes; which yet is an affection of matter much more General then any that can be deduc’d from any of the three Chymical Principles. I might ask the like Question concerning Light, which is not only to be found in the Kindl’d Sulphur of mixt Bodis, but (not to mention those sorts of rotten Woods, and rotten Fish that shine in the Dark) in the tails of living Glow-wormes, and in the Vast bodies of the Sun and Stars. I would gladly also know, in which of the three Principles the Quality, we call Sound, resides as in its proper Subject; since either Oyl falling upon Oyle, or Spirit upon Spirit, or Salt upon Salt, in a great quantity, and from a considerable height, will make a noise, or if you please, create a sound, and (that the objection may reach the Aristotelians) so will also water upon water, and Earth upon Earth. And I could name other qualities to be met within divers bodies, of which I(314) suppose my Adversaries will not in haste assign any Subject, upon whose Account it must needs be, that the quality belongs to all the other several bodies.
And, before I proceed any further, I must here invite you to compare the supposition we are examining, with some other of the Chymical Tenents. For, first they do in effect teach that more then one quality may belong to, and be deduc’d from, one Principle. For, they ascribe to Salt Tasts, and the power of Coagulation; to sulphur, as well Odours as inflamableness; And some of them ascribe to Mercury, Colours; as all of them do effumability, as they speak. And on the other side, it is evident that Volatility belongs in common to all the three Principles, and to Water too. For ’tis manifest, that Chymical Oyles are Volatile; That also divers Salts Emerging, upon the Analysis of many Concretes, are very Volatile, is plain from the figitiveness of Salt, of Harts-horne, flesh, &c. ascending in the Distillation of those bodies. How easily water may be made to ascend in Vapours, there is scarce any body that has not observ’d. And as(315) for what they call the Mercuriall Principle of bodies, that is so apt to be rais’d in the form of Steam, that Paracelsus and others define it by that aptness to fly up; so that (to draw that inference by the way) it seems not that Chymists have been accurate in their Doctrine of qualities, and their respective Principles, since they both derive several qualities from the same Principle, and must ascribe the same quality to almost all their Principles and other bodies besides. And thus much for the first thing taken for granted, without sufficient proof, by your Sennertus: And to add that upon the Bye (continues Carneades) we may hence learn what to judge of the way of Argumentation, which that fierce Champion of the Aristotelians against the Chymists, Anthonius Guntherus BillichiusIn Thessalo redivivo. Cap. 10. pag. 73. & 74. employes, where he pretends to prove against Beguinus, that not only the four Elements do immediately concur to Constitute every mixt body, and are both present in it, and obtainable from it upon its Dissolution; but that in the Tria Prima themselves, whereinto Chymists are wont to resolve mixt Bodies, each of them clearly dis(316)covers it self to consist of four Elements. The Ratiocination it self (pursues Carneades) being somewhat unusual, I did the other Day Transcribe it, and (sayes He, pulling a Paper out of his Pocket) it is this. Ordiamur, cum Beguino, a ligno viridi, quod si concremetur, videbis in sudore Aquam, in fumo Aerem, in flamma & Prunis Ignem, Terram in cineribus: Quod si Beguino placuerit ex eo colligere humidum aquosum, cohibere humidum oleaginosum, extrahere ex cineribus salem; Ego ipsi in unoquoque horum seorsim quatuor Elementa ad oculum demonstrabo, eodem artificio quo in ligno viridi ea demonstravi. Humorem aquosum admovebo Igni. Ipse Aquam Ebullire videbit, in Vapore Aerem conspiciet, Ignem sentiet in æstu, plus minus Terræ in sedimento apparebit. Humor porro Oleaginosus aquam humiditate & fluiditate per se, accensus vero Ignem flamma prodit, fumo Aerem, fuligine, nidore & amurca terram. Salem denique ipse Beguinus siccum vocat & Terrestrem, qui tamen nec fusus Aquam, nec caustica vi ignem celare potest; ignis vero Violentia in halitus versus nec ab Aere se alienum esse demonstrat; Idem de Lacte, de Ovis, de semine Lini, de Garyophyllis, de Nitro,(317) de sale Marino, denique de Antimonio, quod fuit de Ligno viridi Judicium; eadem de illorum partibus, quas Beguinus adducit, sententia, quæ de viridis ligni humore aquoso, quæ de liquore ejusdem oleoso, quæ de sale fuit.
This bold Discourse (resumes Carneades, putting up again his Paper,) I think it were not very difficult to confute, if his Arguments were as considerable as our time will probably prove short for the remaining and more necessary Part of my Discourse; wherefore referring You for an Answer to what was said concerning the Dissipated Parts of a burnt piece of green Wood, to what I told Themistius on the like occasion, I might easily shew You, how sleightly and superficially our Guntherus talks of the dividing the flame of Green Wood into his four Elements; When he makes that vapour to be air, which being caught in Glasses and condens’d, presently discovers it self to have been but an Aggregate of innumerable very minute drops of Liquor; and When he would prove the Phlegmes being compos’d of Fire by that Heat which is adventitious to the Liquor, and ceases upon the absence of what pro(318)duc’d it (whether that be an Agitation proceeding from the motion of the External Fire, or the presence of a Multitude of igneous Atomes pervading the pores of the Vessel, and nimbly permeating the whole Body of the Water) I might, I say, urge these and divers other Weaknesses of His Discourse. But I will rather take Notice of what is more pertinent to the Occasion of this Digression, namely, that Taking it for Granted, that Fluidity (with which he unwarily seems to confound Humidity) must proceed from the Element of Water, he makes a Chymical Oyle to Consist of that Elementary Liquor; and yet in the very next Words proves, that it consists also of Fire, by its Inflamability; not remembring that exquisitely pure Spirit of Wine is both more Fluid then Water it self, and yet will Flame all away without leaving the Least Aqueous Moisture behind it; and without such an Amurca and Soot as he would Deduce the presence of Earth from. So that the same Liquor may according to his Doctrine be concluded by its great Fluidity to be almost all Water; and by its burning all away to be all disguised(319) Fire. And by the like way of Probation our Author would shew that the fixt salt of Wood is compounded of the four Elements. For (sayes he) being turn’d by the violence of the Fire into steames, it shews it self to be of kin to Air; whereas I doubt whether he ever saw a true fixt Salt (which to become so, must have already endur’d the violence of an Incinerating Fire) brought by the Fire alone to ascend in the Forme of Exhalations; but I do not doubt that if he did, and had caught those Exhalations in convenient Vessels, he would have found them as well as the Steames of common Salt, &c. of a Saline and not an Aereal Nature. And whereas our Authour takes it also for Granted, that the Fusibility of Salt must be Deduc’d from Water, it is indeed so much the Effect of heat variously agitating the Minute Parts of a Body, without regard to Water, that Gold (which by its being the heavyest and fixtest of Bodies, should be the most Earthy) will be brought to Fusion by a strong Fire; which sure is more likely to drive away then increase its Aqueous Ingredient, if it have any; and on the other side, for want of a sufficient a(320)gitation of its minute parts, Ice is not Fluid, but Solid; though he presumes also that the Mordicant Quality of Bodies must proceed from a fiery ingredient; whereas, not to urge that the Light and inflamable parts, which are the most likely to belong to the Element of Fire, must probably be driven away by that time the violence of the Fire has reduc’d the Body to ashes; Not to urge this, I I say, nor that Oyle of Vitriol which quenches Fire, burnes the Tongue and flesh of those that Unwarily tast or apply it, as a caustick doth, it is precarious to prove the Presence of Fire in fixt salts from their Caustick power, unlesse it were first shewn, that all the Qualities ascribed to salts must be deduc’d from those of the Elements; which, had I Time, I could easily manifest to be no easy talk. And not to mention that our Authour makes a Body as Homogeneous as any he can produce for Elementary, belong both to Water and Fire, Though it be neither Fluid nor Insipid, like Water; nor light and Volatile, like Fire; he seems to omit in this Anatomy the Element of Earth, save That he intimates, That the salt may pass for(321) that; But since a few lines before, he takes Ashes for Earth, I see not how he will avoid an Inconsistency either betwixt the Parts of his Discourse or betwixt some of them and his Doctrine. For since There is a manifest Difference betwixt the Saline and the insipid Parts of Ashes, I see not how substances That Disagree in such Notable Qualities can be both said to be Portions of an Element, whose Nature requires that it be Homogeneous, especially in this case where an Analysis by the Fire is suppos’d to have separated it from the admixture of other Elements, which are confess’d by most Aristotelians to be Generally found in common Earth, and to render it impure. And sure if when we have consider’d for how little a Disparities sake the Peripateticks make these Symbolizing Bodies Aire and Fire to be two Distinct Elements, we shall also consider that the Saline part of Ashes is very strongly Tasted, and easily soluble in Water; whereas the other part of the same Ashes is insipid and indissoluble in the same Liquor: Not to add, that the one substance is Opacous, and the other some(322)what Diaphanous, nor that they differ in Divers other Particulars; If we consider those things, I say, we shall hardly think that both these Substances are Elementary Earth; And as to what is sometimes objected, that their Saline Tast is only an Effect of Incineration and Adustion, it has been elsewhere fully reply’d to, when propos’d by Themistius, and where it has been prov’d against him, that however insipid Earth may perhaps by Additaments be turn’d into Salt, yet ’tis not like it should be so by the Fire alone: For we see that when we refine Gold and Silver, the violentest Fires We can Employ on them give them not the least Rellish of Saltness. And I think Philoponus has rightly observ’d, that the Ashes of some Concretes contain very little salt if any at all; For Refiners suppose that bone-ashes are free from it, and therefore make use of them for Tests and Cuppels, which ought to be Destitute of Salt, lest the Violence of the Fire should bring them to Vitrification; And having purposely and heedfully tasted a Cuppel made of only bone-ashes and fair water, which I had caus’d to be ex(323)pos’d to a Very Violent Fire, acuated by the Blast of a large pair of Double Bellows, I could not perceive that the force of the Fire had imparted to it the least Saltness, or so much as made it less Insipid.
But (sayes Carneades) since neither You nor I love Repetitions, I shall not now make any of what else was urg’d against Themistius but rather invite You to take notice with me that when our Authour, though a Learned Man, and one that pretends skill enough in Chymistry to reforme the whole Art, comes to make good his confident Undertaking, to give us an occular Demonstration of the immediate Presence of the four Elements in the resolution of Green Wood, He is fain to say things that agree very little with one another. For about the beginning of that passage of His lately recited to you, he makes the sweat as he calls it of the green Wood to be Water, the smoke Aire, the shining Matter Fire, and the Ashes Earth; whereas a few lines after, he will in each of these, nay (as I just now noted) in one Distinct Part of the Ashes, shew the four Elements. So that either the former Ana(324)lysis must be incompetent to prove that Number of Elements, since by it the burnt Concrete is not reduc’d into Elementary Bodies, but into such as are yet each of them compounded of the four Elements; or else these Qualities from which he endeavours to deduce the presence of all the Elements, in the fixt salt, and each of the other separated substances, will be but a precarious way of probation: especially if you consider, that the extracted Alcali of Wood, being for ought appears at least as similar a Body as any that the Peripateticks can shew us, if its differing Qualities must argue the presence of Distinct Elements, it will scarce be possible for them by any way they know of employing the fire upon a Body, to shew that any Body is a Portion of a true Element: And this recals to my mind, that I am now but in an occasional excussion, which aiming only to shew that the Peripateticks as well as the Chymists take in our present Controversie something for granted which they ought to prove, I shall returne to my exceptions, where I ended the first of them, and further tell you, that neither is that the only precarious(325) thing that I take notice of in Sennertus his Argumentation; for when he inferrs, that because the Qualities he Mentions as Colours, Smels, and the like, belong not to the Elements; they therefore must to the Chymical Principles, he takes that for granted, which will not in haste be prov’d; as I might here manifest, but that I may by and by have a fitter opportunity to take notice of it. And thus much at present may suffice to have Discours’d against the Supposition, that almost every Quality must have some δεκτικον πρωτον, as they speak, some Native receptacle, wherein as in its proper Subject of inhesion it peculiarly resides, and on whose account that quality belongs to the other Bodies, Wherein it is to be met with. Now this Fundamental supposition being once Destroy’d, whatsoever is built upon it, must fall to ruine of it self.
But I consider further, that Chymists are (for ought I have found) far from being able to explicate by any of the Tria Prima, those qualities which they pretend to belong primarily unto it, and in mixt Bodies to Deduce from it. Tis true indeed, that such qua(326)lities are not explicable by the four Elements; but it will not therefore follow, that they are so by the three hermetical Principles; and this is it that seems to have deceiv’d the Chymists, and is indeed a very common mistake amongst most Disputants, who argue as if there could be but two Opinions concerning the Difficulty about which they contend; and consequently they inferr, that if their Adversaries Opinion be Erroneous, Their’s must needs be the Truth; whereas many questions, and especially in matters Physiological, may admit of so many Differing Hypotheses, that ’twill be very inconsiderate and fallacious to conclude (except where the Opinions are precisely Contradictory) the Truth of one from the falsity of another. And in our particular case ’tis no way necessary, that the Properties of mixt Bodies must be explicable either by the Hermetical, or the Aristotelian Hypothesis, there being divers other and more plausible wayes of explaining them, and especially that, which deduces qualities from the motion, figure, and contrivance of the small parts of Bodies; as I think might be(327) shewn, if the attempt were as seasonable, as I fear it would be Tedious.
I will allow then, that the Chymists do not causelessly accuse the Doctrine of the four elements of incompetency to explain the Properties of Compound bodies. And for this Rejection of a Vulgar Error, they ought not to be deny’d what praise men may deserve for exploding a Doctrine whose Imperfections are so conspicuous, that men needed but not to shut their Eyes, to discover them. But I am mistaken, if our Hermetical Philosophers Themselves need not, as well as the Peripateticks, have Recourse to more Fruitfull and Comprehensive Principles then the tria Prima, to make out the Properties of the Bodies they converse with. Not to accumulate Examples to this purpose, (because I hope for a fitter opportunity to prosecute this Subject) let us at present only point at Colour, that you may guess by what they say of so obvious and familiar a Quality, how little Instruction we are to expect from the Tria Prima in those more abstruse ones, which they with the Aristotelians stile Occult. For about Colours, nei(328)ther do they at all agree among themselves, nor have I met with any one, of which of the three Perswasions soever, that does intelligibly explicate Them. The Vulgar Chymists are wont to ascribe Colours to Mercury; Paracelsus in divers places attributes them to Salt; and Sennertus,De Cons. & dissen. cap. 11. pag. 186. having recited their differing Opinions, Dissents from both, and referrs Colours rather unto Sulphur. But how Colours do, nay, how they may, arise from either of these Principles, I think you will scarce say that any has yet intelligibly explicated. And if Mr. Boyle will allow me to shew you the Experiments which he has collected about Colours, you will, I doubt not, confess that bodies exhibite colours, not upon the Account of the Predominancy of this or that Principle in them, but upon that of their Texture, and especially the Disposition of their superficial parts, whereby the Light rebounding thence to the Eye is so modifi’d, as by differing Impressions variously to affect the Organs of Sight. I might here take notice of the pleasing variety of Colours exhibited by the Triangular glass, (as ’tis wont to be call’d) and demand,(329) what addition or decrement of either Salt, Sulphur, or Mercury, befalls the Body of the Glass by being Prismatically figur’d; and yet ’tis known, that without that shape it would not affor’d those colours as it does. But because it may be objected, that these are not real, but apparent Colours; that I may not lose time in examing the Distinction, I will alledge against the Chymists, a couple of examples of Real and Permanent Colours Drawn from Metalline Bodies, and represent, that without the addition of any extraneous body, Quicksilver may by the Fire alone, and that in glass Vessels, be depriv’d of its silver-like Colour, and be turn’d into a Red Body; and from this Red Body without Addition likewise may be obtain’d a Mercury Bright and Specular as it was before; So that I have here a lasting Colour Generated and Destroy’d (as I have seen) at pleasure, without adding or taking away either Mercury, Salt, or Sulphur; and if you take a clean and slender piece of harden’d steel, and apply to it the flame of a candle at some little distance short of the point, You shall not have held(330) the Steel long in the flame, but You shall perceive divers Colours, as Yellow, Red and Blew, to appear upon the Surface of the metal, and as it were run along in chase of one another towards the point; So that the same body, and that in one and the same part, may not only have a new colour produc’d in it, but exhibite successively divers Colours within a minute of an hour, or thereabouts, and any of these Colours may by Removing the Steel from the Fire, become Permanent, and last many years. And this Production and Variety of Colours cannot reasonably be suppos’d to proceed from the Accession of any of the three Principles, to which of them soever Chymists will be pleas’d to ascribe Colours; especially considering, that if you but suddenly Refrigerate that Iron, First made Red hot, it will be harden’d and Colourless again; and not only by the Flame of a Candle, but by any other equivalent heat Conveniently appli’d, the like Colours will again be made to appear and succeed one another, as at the First. But I must not any further prosecute an Occasional Discourse, though(331) that were not so Difficult for me to do, as I fear it would be for the Chymists to give a better Account of the other Qualities, by their Principles, then they have done of Colours. And your SennertusSennert. de Con. seus. & Dissens. pag. 165. 166. Himself (though an Author I much value) would I fear have been exceedingly puzl’d to resolve, by the Tria Prima, halfe that Catalogue of Problems, which he challenges the Vulgar Peripateticks to explicate by their four Elements. And supposing it were true, that Salt or Sulphur were the Principle to which this or that Quality may be peculiarly referr’d, yet though he that teaches us this teaches us something concerning That quality, yet he Teaches us but something. For indeed he does not Teach us That which can in any Tollerable measure satisfie an inquisitive Searcher after Truth. For what is it to me to know, that such a quality resides in such a Principle or Element, whilst I remain altogether ignorant of the Cause of that quality, and the manner of its production and Operation? How little do I know more then any Ordinary Man of Gravity, if I know but that the Heaviness of mixt(332) bodies proceeds from that of the Earth they are compos’d of, if I know not the reason why the Earth is Heavy? And how little does the Chymist teach the Philosopher of the Nature of Purgatition, if he only tells him that the Purgative Vertue of Medicines resides in their Salt? For, besides that this must not be conceded without Limitation, since the purging parts of many Vegetables Extracted by the Water wherein they are infus’d, are at most but such compounded Salts, (I mean mingl’d with Oyle, and Spirit, and Earth, as Tartar and divers other Subjects of the Vegetable Kingdom afford;) And since too that Quicksilver precipitated either with Gold, or without Addition, into a powder, is wont to be strongly enough Cathartical, though the Chymists have not yet prov’d, that either Gold or Mercury have any Salt at all, much less any that is Purgative; Besides this, I say, how little is it to me, to know That ’tis the Salt of the Rhubarb (for Instance) that purges, if I find That it does not purge as Salt; since scarce any Elementary Salt is in small quantity cathartical. And if I know not how(333) Purgation in general is effected in a Humane Body? In a word, as ’tis one thing to know a mans Lodging, and another, to be acquainted with him; so it may be one thing to know the subject wherein a Quality principally resides, and another thing to have a right notion and knowledg of the quality its self. Now that which I take to be the reason of this Chymical Deficiency, is the same upon whose account I think the Aristotelian and divers other Theories incompetent to explicate the Origen of Qualities. For I am apt to think, that men will never be able to explain the Phænomena of Nature, while they endeavour to deduce them only from the Presence and Proportion of such or such material Ingredients, and consider such ingredients or Elements as Bodies in a state of rest; whereas indeed the greatest part of the affections of matter, and consequently of the Phænomena of nature, seems to depend upon the motion and the continuance of the small parts of Bodies. For ’tis by motion that one part of matter acts upon another; and ’tis, for the most part, the texture of the Body upon which the moving parts strike, that modifies to moti(334)on or Impression, and concurrs with it to the production of those Effects which make up the chief part of the Naturalists Theme.
But (sayes Eleutherius) me thinks for all this, you have left some part of what I alledg’d in behalf of the three principles, unanswer’d. For all that you have said will not keep this from being a useful Discovery, that since in the Salt of one Concrete, in the Sulphur of another and the Mercury of a third, the Medicinal vertue of it resides, that Principle ought to be separated from the rest, and there the desired faculty must be sought for.
I never denyed (Replyes Carneades) that the Notion of the Tria Prima may be of some use, but (continues he laughing) by what you now alledg for it, it will but appear That it is useful to Apothecaries, rather than to Philosophers, The being able to make things Operative being sufficient to those, whereas the Knowledge of Causes is the Thing looked after by These. And let me Tell You, Eleutherius, even this it self will need to be entertained with some caution.(335) For first, it will not presently follow, That if the Purgative or other vertue of a simple may be easily extracted by Water or Spirit of Wine, it Resides in the Salt or Sulphur of the Concrete; Since unlesse the Body have before been resolved by the Fire, or some Other Powerful Agent, it will, for the most part, afford in the Liquors I have named, rather the finer compounded parts of it self, Than the Elementary ones. As I noted before, That Water will dissolve not only pure Salts, but Crystals of Tartar, Gumme Arabick, Myrr’h, and Other Compound Bodies. As also Spirit of Wine will Dissolve not only the pure Sulphur of Concretes, but likewise the whole Substance of divers Resinous Bodies, as Benzoin, the Gummous parts of Jallap, Gumme Lacca, and Other bodies that are counted perfectly Mixt. And we see that the Extracts made either with Water or Spirit of Wine are not of a simple and Elementary Nature, but Masses consisting of the looser Corpuscles, and finer parts of the Concretes whence they are Drawn; since by Distillation they may be Divided into more Elementary substances.(336) Next, we may consider That even when there intervenes a Chymical resolution by he Fire, ’tis seldom in the Saline or Sulphureous principle, as such, that the desir’d Faculty of the Concrete Resides; But, as that Titular Salt or Sulphur is yet a mixt body, though the Saline or Sulphureous Nature be predominant in it. For, if in Chymical Resolutions the separated Substances were pure and simple Bodies, and of a perfect Elementary Nature; no one would be indued with more Specifick Vertues, than another; and their qualities would Differ as Little as do those of Water. And let me add this upon the bye, That even Eminent Chymists have suffer’d themselves to be reprehended by me for their over great Diligence in purifying some of the things they obtain by Fire from mixt Bodies. For though such compleatly purifyed Ingredients of Bodies might perhaps be more satisfactory to our Understanding; yet others are often more useful to our Lives, the efficacy of such Chymical Productions depending most upon what they retain of the Bodies whence they are separated, or gain by the new associations of the Dis(337)sipated among themselves; whereas if they were meerly Elementary, their uses would be comparatively very small; and the vertues of Sulphurs, Salts, or Other such Substances of one denomination, would be the very same.
And by the Way (Eleutherius) I am inclin’d upon this ground to Think, That the artificial resolution of compound bodies by Fire does not so much enrich mankind, as it divides them into their supposed Principles; as upon the score of its making new compounds by now combinations of the dissipated parts of the resolv’d Body. For by this means the Number of mixt Bodies is considerably increased. And many of those new productions are indow’d with useful qualities, divers of which they owe not to the body from which they were obtein’d, but to Their newly Acquired Texture.
But thirdly, that which is principally to be Noted is this, that as there are divers Concretes whose Faculties reside in some one or other of those differing Substances that Chymists call their Sulphurs, Salts, and Mercuries, and consequently may be best obtain’d, by ana(338)lyzing the Concrete whereby the desired Principles may be had sever’d or freed from the rest; So there are other wherein the noblest properties lodge not in the Salt, or Sulphur, or Mercury, but depend immediately upon the form (or if you will) result from the determinate structure of the Whole Concrete; and consequently they that go about to extract the Vertues of such bodies, by exposing them to the Violence of the Fire, do exceedingly mistake, and take the way to Destroy what they would obtain.
I remmember that HelmontHelmont Pharm. & Dispens. Nov. p. 458. himself somewhere confesses, That as the Fire betters some things and improves their Vertues, so it spoyles others and makes them degenerate. And elsewhere he judiciously affirmes, that there may be sometimes greater vertue in a simple, such as Nature has made it, than in any thing that can by the fire be separated from it. And lest you should doubt whether he means by the vertues of things those that are Medical; he has in one place this ingenuous confession; Credo (sayes he) simplicia in sua simplicitate esse sufficientia pro sanatione omnium morborum.(339) Nag. Barthias,Vide Jer. ad Begu. Lib. 1. Cap. 17. even in a Comment upon Beguinus, scruples not to make this acknowledgment; Valde absurdum est (sayes he) ex omnibus rebus extracta facere, salia, quintas essentias; præsertim ex substantiis per se plane vel subtilibus vel homogeneis, quales sunt uniones, Corallia, Moscus, Ambra, &c. Consonantly whereunto he also tells Us (and Vouches the famous Platerus, for having candidly given the same Advertisement to his Auditors,) that some things have greater vertues, and better suited to our humane nature, when unprepar’d, than when they have past the Chymists Fire; as we see, sayes my Author, in Pepper; of which some grains swallowed perform more towards the relief of a Distempered stomack, than a great quantity of the Oyle of the same spice.
It has been (pursues Carneades) by our Friend here present observ’d concerning Salt-petre, that none of the substances into which the Fire is wont to divide it, retaines either the Tast, the cooling vertue, or some other of the properties of the Concrete; and that each of those Substances acquires new qualities, not to be found in the Salt-Petre it self. The(340) shining property of the tayls of gloworms does survive but so short a time the little animal made conspicuous by it, that inquisitive men have not scrupled publickly to deride Baptista Porta and others; who deluded perhaps with some Chymical surmises have ventur’d to prescribe the distillation of a Water from the tayles of Glowormes, as a sure way to obtain a liquor shining in the Dark. To which I shall now add no other example than that afforded us by Amber; which, whilst it remains an intire body, is endow’d with an Electrical faculty of drawing to it self fethers, strawes, and such like Bodies; which I never could observe either in its Salt, its Spirit, its Oyle, or in the Body I remember I once made by the reunion of its divided Elements; none of these having such a Texture as the intire Concrete. And however Chymists boldly deduce such and such properties from this or that proportion of their component Principles; yet in Concretes that abound with this or that Ingredient, ’tis not alwayes so much by vertue of its presence, nor its plenty, that the Concrete is qualify’d to perform such and such Effects; as upon the account(341) of the particular texture of that and the other Ingredients, associated after a determinate Manner into one Concrete (though possibly such a proportion of that ingredient may be more convenient than an other for the constituting of such a body.) Thus in a clock the hand is mov’d upon the dyal, the bell is struck, and the other actions belonging to the engine are perform’d, not because the Wheeles are of brass or iron, or part of one metal and part of another, or because the weights are of Lead, but by Vertue of the size, shape, bigness, and co-aptation of the several parts; which would performe the same things though the wheels were of Silver, or Lead, or Wood, and the Weights of Stone or Clay; provided the Fabrick or Contrivance of the engine were the same: though it be not to be deny’d, that Brasse and Steel are more convenient materials to make clock-wheels of than Lead, or Wood. And to let you see, Eleutherius, that ’tis sometimes at least, upon the Texture of the small parts of a body, and not alwaies upon the presence, or recesse, or increase, or Decrement of any one of its Principle, that it may lose some(142) such Qualities, and acquire some such others as are thought very strongly inherent to the bodies they Reside in. I will add to what may from my past discourse be refer’d to this purpose, this Notable Example, from my Own experience; That Lead may without any additament, and only by various applications of the Fire, lose its colour, and acquire sometimes a gray, sometimes a yellowish, sometimes a red, sometimes an amethihstine colour; and after having past through these, and perhaps divers others, again recover its leaden colour, and be made a bright body. That also this Lead, which is so flexible a metal, may be made as brittle as Glasse, and presently be brought to be again flexible and Malleable as before. And besides, that the same lead, which I find by Microscopes to be one of the most opacous bodies in the World, may be reduced to a fine transparent glasse; whence yet it may returne to an opacous Nature again; and all this, as I said, without the addition of any extraneous body, and meerly by the manner and Method of exposing it to the Fire.
But (sayes Carneades) after having al(343)ready put you to so prolix a trouble, it is time for me to relieve you with a promise of putting speedily a period to it; And to make good that promise, I shall from all that I have hitherto discoursed with you, deduce but this one proposition by way of Corollary. [That it may as yet be doubted, whether or no there be any determinate Number of Elements; Or, if you please, whether or no all compound bodies, do consist of the same number of Elementary ingredients or material Principles.]
This being but an inference from the foregoing Discourse, it will not be requisite to insist at large on the proofs of it; But only to point at the chief of Them, and Referr You for Particulars to what has been already Delivered.
In the First place then, from what has been so largely discours’d, it may appear, that the Experiments wont to be brought, whether by the common Peripateticks, or by the vulgar Chymists, to demonstrate that all mixt bodies are made up precisely either of the four Elements, or the three Hypostatical Principles, do not evince what they are alledg’d to prove. And as for the other common arguments, pretended to be(344) drawn from Reason in favour of Aristotelian Hypothesis (for the Chymists are wont to rely almost altogether upon Experiments) they are Commonly grounded upon such unreasonable or precarious Suppositions, that ’tis altogether as easie and as just for any man to reject them, as for those that take them for granted to assert them, being indeed all of them as indemonstrable as the conclusion to be inferr’d from them; and some of them so manifestly weak and prooflesse; that he must be a very courteous adversary, that can be willing to grant them; and as unskilful a one, that can be compelled to do so.
In the next place, it may be considered, if what those Patriarchs of the Spagyrists, Paracelsus and Helmont, do on divers occasions positively deliver, be true; namely that the Alkahest does Resolve all mixt Bodies into other Principles than the fire, it must be decided which of the two resolutions (that made by the Alkahest, or that made by the fire) shall determine the number of the Elements, before we can be certain how many there are.
And in the mean time, we may take(345) notice in the last place, that as the distinct substances whereinto the Alkahest divides bodies, are affirm’d to be differing in nature from those whereunto they are wont to be reduc’d by fire, and to be obtain’d from some bodies more in Number than from some others; since he tells us,Novi saxum & lapides omnes in merum salem suo saxo aut lapidi & æquiponderantem reducere absque omni prorsus sulphure aut Mercurio. Helmont. pag. 409. he could totally reduce all sorts of Stones into Salt only, whereas of a coal he had two distinct Liquors. So, although we should acquiesce in that resolution which is made by fire, we find not that all mixt bodies are thereby divided into the same number of Elements and Principles; some Concretes affordding more of them than others do; Nay and sometimes this or that Body affording a greater number of Differing substances by one way of management, than the same yields by another. And they that out of Gold, or Mercury, or Muscovy-glasse, will draw me as many distinct substances as I can separate from Vitriol, or from the juice of Grapes variously orderd, may teach me that which I shall very Thankfully learn. Nor does it ap(346)pear more congruous to that variety that so much conduceth to the perfection of the Universe, that all elemented bodies be compounded of the same number of Elements, then it would be for a language, that all its words should consist of the same number of Letters.