Theory And Philosophy Of Alchemy

Theory And Philosophy Of Alchemy Cover
The first objects were to be achieved as follows: The transmutation of metals was to be accomplished by a powder, stone or exilir often called the Philosopher`s Stone, the application of which would effect the transmutation of the baser metals into gold or silver, depending upon the length of time of its application. Basing their conclusions on a profound examination of natural processes and research into the secrets of nature, the alchemists arrived at the axiom that nature was divided philosophically into four principal regions, the dry, the moist, the warm, the cold, whence all that exists must be derived. Nature is also divisible into the male and the female. She is the divine breath, the central fire, invisible yet ever active, and is typified by sulphur, which is the mercury of the sages, which slowly fructifies under the genial warmth of nature. The alchemist must be ingenuous, of a truthful disposition, and gifted with patience and prudence, following nature in every alchemical performance. He must recollect that like draws to like, and must know how to obtain the seed of metals, which is produced by the four elements through the will of the Supreme Being and the Imagination of Nature. We are told the the original matter of metals is double in its essence, being a dry heat combined with a warm moisture, and that air is water coagulated by fir, capable of producing a universal dissolvent. These terms the neophyte must be cautious of interpreting in their literal sense. Great confusion exists in alchemical nomenclature, and the gibberish employed by the scores of charlatans who in later times pretended to a knowledge of alchemical matters did not tend to make things any more clear. The beginner must also acquire a thorough knowledge of the manner in which metals grow in the bowels of the earth. These are engendered by sulphur, which is male, and mercury, which is female, and the crux of alchemy is to obtain their seed - a process which the alchemist philosophers have not described with any degree of clarity. The physical theory of transmutation is based on the composite character of metals, and on the existence of a substance which, applied to matter, exalts and perfects it. This, Eugenius Philalethes and others call 'The Light'. The elements of all metals is similar, differing only in purity and proportion. The entire trend of the metallic kingdom is towards the natural manufacture of gold, and the production of the baser metals is only accidental as the result of an unfavorable environment. The Philosopher's Stone is the combination of the male and female seeds which beget gold. The composition of these is so veiled by symbolism as to make their identification a matter of impossibility. Waite, summarizing the alchemical process once the secret of the stone is unveiled, says: "Given the matter of the stone and also the necessary vessel, the process which must be then undertaken to accomplish the `magnum opus' are described with moderate perpicuity. There is the calcination or purgation of the stone, in which kind is worked with kind for the space of a philosophical year. There is dissolution which prepares the way for congelation, and which is performed during the black state of the mysterious matter. It is accomplished by water which does not wet the hand. There is the separation of the subtle and the gross, which is to be performed by means of heat. In the conjunction which follows, the elements are duly and scrupulously combined. Putrefaction afterwards takes place. `Without which pole no seed may multiply.' "Then, in the subsequent congelation the white colour appears, which is one of the signs of success. It becomes more pronounced in cibation. In sublimation the body is spiritualised, the spirit made corporeal, and again a more glittering whiteness is apparent. Fermentation afterwards fixes together the alchemical earth and water, and causes the mystic medicines to flow like wax. The matter is then augmented with the alchemical spirit of life, and the exaltation of the philosophic earth is accomplished by the natural rectification of its elements. When these processes have been successfully completed, the mystic stone will have passed through the chief stages characterized by different colours, black, white and red, after which it is capable of infinite multication, and when projected on mercury, it will absolutely transmute it, the resulting gold bearing every test. The base metals made use of must be purified to insure the success of the operation. The process for the manufacture of silver is essentially similar, but the resources of the matter are not carried to so high a degree. "According to the "Commentary on the Ancient War of the Knights" the transmutations performed by the perfect stone are so absolute that no trace remains of the original metal. It cannot, however, destroy gold, nor exalt it into a more perfect metallic substance; it, therefore, transmutes it into a medicine a thousand times superior to any virtues which can be extracted from its vulgar state. This medicine becomes a most potent agent in the exaltation of base metals." There are not wanting authorities who deny that the transmutations of metals was the grand object of alchemy, and who infer from the alchemistical writings that the end of the art was the spiritual regeneration of man. Mrs. Atwood, author of "A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery", and an American writer named Hitchcock are purhaps the chief protagonists of the belief the by spiritual processes akin to those of the chemical process of alchemy, the soul of man may be purified and exalted. But both commit the radical error of stating the the alchemical writers did not aver that the transmutation of base metal into gold was their grand end. None of the passages they quote, is inconsistent with the physical object of alchemy, and in a work, "The Marrow of Alchemy", stated to be by Eugenius Philaletes, it is laid down that the real quest is for gold. It is constantly impressed upon the reader, however, in the perusal of esteemed alchemical works, that only those who are instructed by God can achieve the grand secret. Others, again, state that a tyro may possibly stumble upon it, but that unless he is guided by an adept he has small chance of achieving the grand arcanum. It will be obvious to the tyro, however, that nothing can ever be achieved by trusting to the allegories of the adepts or the many charlatans who crowded the ranks of the art. Gold may be made, or it may not, but the truth or fallacy of the alchemical method lies with modern chemistry. The transcendental view of alchemy, however, is rapidly gaining ground, and probably originated in the comprehensive nature of Hermetic theory and the consciousness in the alchemical mind that what might with success be applied to nature could also be applied to man with similar results. Says Mr. Waite, "The gold of the philosopher is not a metal, on the other hand, man is a being who possesses within himself the seeds of a perfection which he has never realized, and that he therefore corresponds to those metals which the Hermetic theory supposes to be capable of developing the latent possibilities in the subject man." At the same time, it must be admitted that the cryptic character of alchemical language was probably occasioned by a fear on the part of the alchemical mystic that he might lay himself open through his magical opinions to the rigors of the law. Taken from a 1960 reprint of "AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF OCCULTISM", by Lewis Spence; University Press, Hyde Park, New York. Originally Published in 1920, it is considered to be one of the most complete texts on the subject.

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