Rosarium Philosophorum, or the Rosary of the Philosophers, was written by the alchemical adept Arnold de Villanova and originally published in 1550 in Frankfurt, Germany as part of a compilation of alchemy texts.
This treatise is a testament that prior to 1550 adepts were studiously compiling, for their own benefit, insightful statements from adepts of previous generations about specific processes of alchemy work and sorting them accordingly, as to their appropriate stages within the Art of practical alchemy.
This text, therefore, as just one of many, offers tremendous value for its correlations, personal commentary, and its 20 original woodcut images contributing their silent insights… some of which can find their origin in even older texts, further testifying to the age of this particular stream of alchemical thought.
Arnold de Villanova: Rosarium Philosophorum
Here beginneth the
Book of the Rosary of the Philosophers
most diligently compiled and brought into one volume.
They who desire to have the most true knowledge of the greater science of the philosophical Art, let them diligently peruse this little book and often times read it over and they shall obtain their prosperous and wished desire. Listen to these things, you children of the Ancient Philosophers, I will speak in the loudest and highest voice I can, for I come unto you to open and declare the principal state of human things and the most secret treasure of all the secrets of the whole world. I will not do it feignedly and erroneously but altogether plainly and truly, wherefore use you towards me such devotion of hearing as I shall bring unto you magistery of doctrine and wisdom, for I will show you a true testimony of those things which I have seen with my own eyes and felt with my hands. There are many men too forward as deceitful boasters which after great expenses and labours, find out no effect but misery. I will therefore speak plainly and manifestly so that the unskillful, as those that are expert and skilful, shall be able to understand the secret of this mystery. Neither shall any man justly use slanderous and blasphemous words against me, for seeing that the Ancient Philosophers have written so obscurely and confusedly that they are not understood, nor seem not to agree together, because diverse men searching after this most precious Art have either been deceived or terrified from their purpose, therefore without all deceit or obscurity, I will plainly set down the true experiment before your eyes, together with the opinions of the Philosophers, serving well for our purpose that the matter whereof we entreat may be manifest and plainly understood.
First we must note that all men which work beyond nature are deceivers and work in an unlawful manner. Furthermore, of man nothing is born but man, and of a brute beast nothing but a brute beast, and every like bringeth forth nothing but his like, wherefore he which have not of his own, cannot at his pleasure have another man’s. We speak this that no man should let his money go from him. For some men being deceived by letting their money pass from them, and so living in penury, do also endeavour to seduce other men and to bring them to like misery. But my counsel is that no man be too forward in this art, in hope to attain some great matter, unless he knows the beginning of true nature and the regimen thereof, which being known there is not then any need of more things than one, neither doth it require great expenses, because it is one stone, one medicine, one vessel, one regimen, and one disposition, and know this: that it is a most true Art. Furthermore the Philosophers would never have laboured and studied to express such diversities of colours and the order of them unless they had seen and felt them.
Wherefore again we say this, that all men labouring beyond nature are deceivers and deceived. Therefore let your exercise and labour be used in Nature because Our Stone is of an Animal, of a Vegetable, and of a Mineral substance. Be thou therefore of one mind and opinion in the work of nature and presume not to try this thing here and that thing another time, for our Art is not effected with the multitude of things and though the names thereof be diverse and manifold, yet it is always one only thing and of one thing. For that is not brought into nature which being in it is not of its own nature, therefore it is necessary that the Agent and Patient be One thing, and the same thing in kind or in general, but in species another and diverse, according to Mercury by which the woman is diversified from the man, because, although they agree in one kind, yet they have a distinct difference between themselves, as Matter and Form differ, for Matter suffers action but Form works and makes the Matter like itself. Therefore, Matter naturally desires Form, as the woman does the man, and the foul does the fair, so the body embraceth the spirit more freely that it may come to its perfection. Therefore, by knowing the natural roots you shall the better make your work of them. Because I cannot any other way express or explain our stone, nor form it by any other name, it is manifest by that which went before, that our stone is compounded of four elements, both rich and poor have it, and it is found in every place, it is likened to all things and is also compounded of body, soul and spirit and it is altered from nature into nature even to the last degree of his perfection.
They have also said that our stone is made of one thing and it is true for the whole magistery is done with our water, for that water is the sperm of all metals, and all metals are resolved into it, as has been declared.
Likewise, the salt of metals is the stone of the Philosophers, for our stone is a water congealed into Gold and Silver and resists the fire and is resolved again into its water of which it is compounded in its kind. Therefore, the reduction of bodies into their first matter as into Argent vive is nothing else but a resolution of the congealed matter by which a lock is opened by the ingression of one nature into another.
Whereupon, the Philosophers have said that Sol is nothing else but ripened Argent vive, for in Mercury there are but two elements in act, that is to say earth and water which are passives, but the active elements as air and fire are in that might and power only because those things are brought from power into act in pure Mercury according to due digestion and proportionable decoction, then Gold is made. Wherefore there are four elements in Gold made fit in equal proportion and therefore ripe and active Sulphur is there, and our Art helpeth nature by her ministering ripe Gold to Mercury, in which is ripe and well digested Sulphur, but from nature by the work of nature.
Whosoever would come to the knowledge of this Art and is not a Philosopher will prove a fool, because this Science is only of the Secrets of Philosophers.
This Art is reserved in the power of God and is an enemy to the lay people.
Therefore this Art is not necessary for poor and needy men but is rather an enemy to them.
Aristotle in the Second Book of his Politics:
It is impossible for a poor man to be a Philosopher.
There is a double way in this art according to the Philosophers, that is — universal and particular. The universal way is easy and rare, and it is that which is brought forth from true and natural beginnings, by which a speedy and reformative virtue doth presently and in a moment hardens Mercury, and it tinctureth any metal that is duly prepared, into true Gold or Silver.
But the second way is called particular and it is hard and laboursome. Note this, although Alchemy in the universal way be partly natural and partly artificial, yet it is more natural than otherwise, because by nature no strange or foreign thing is brought in the way of true Alchemy, for nature hath whereon to work because actives are joined to passives by a competent union and application, but the rest nature worketh by herself.
Our stone is a thing which hath not touched the fire, nor the fire touched it, from which our mercury riseth.
There are three sorts of labourers according to the art of Alchemy, that is the Alchimist, the Lauchimist, and the Lachrymist. Not every one who sayeth “Take, Take”, shall enter into this art, because it is one only receipt, and one body entereth not into another.
Take this and this and do thus and thus, and you shall have this, and this is a common thing among all Philosophers.
Whereupon the Philosopher said, the first word, “Take, Take”, hath made many errors, therefore, the first work is to dissolve the matter of the stone, that is, not common Mercury.
Fools understanding the sayings of the Philosophers according to the letter do find out no truth, and they say it is a false science because they have tried it and found nothing, and then they become as men desperate, condemning this science and dispraising the books thereof, and therefore the science maketh small account of them, because our science of the secrets of nature hath no enemy but the ignorant, according to these verses following:
This stone is had in small regard
With men of slender wit
But yet the wise and learned sort
Make great account of it.
Know this, that God hath not ordained this stone of which this great secret entreateth to be bought for a great price, for it is found out being cast in the way, and may as well be had of a poor man as of a rich man, that every man may come unto it by reason and knowledge. Argent vive is not the stone, whereupon Constantinus saith “Because it is fusible, therefore it is not the stone”.
Argent vive is fire whereupon the Philosopher said, “Know therefore that Argent vive is fire and burns bodies more than fire”.
We are the beginning and first nature of metals,
Art by us maketh the chief tincture.
There is no fountain nor water found like unto me.
I heal and help both the rich and the poor,
But yet I am full of hurtful poison.
The juices of Lunaria, Aqua Vitae, Fifth Essence, Spirit of wine, mercury vegetable, are all one. The juices of Lunaria is made of our wine, which thing is known but to few of our children, and with it is our solution made, and our potable gold is made, that being the mean thereof and cannot be without it.
For the imperfect body is converted into the first matter, and those waters being conjoined with our water do make one pure and clear water, purifying all things and yet containing in itself all necessary things. And this water of which and with which our magistery is effected, is both dear and cheap, for it dissolveth bodies not with common solution as the ignorant report, which converts the body into cloud water, but by the true philosophical solution, in which the body is changed into its first water of which it hath been from the beginning this self same body. That is, the water transforms bodies into Ashes. But know this, that the Art of Alchemy is a gift of the Holy Ghost and know that in our days we have had Master Arnold de Villa Nova in the Roman Court, a great Physician and Divine, who hath also been a notable Alchimist, who made small wedges of gold which wedges he granted to be put to any trial.
Let the Artificers of Alchemy know this, that the forms of metals cannot be transmuted unless they be reduced into their first matter, and then they are transmuted into another form than that which they had before. And that is because the corruption of one thing is the generation of another thing, as well in artificial things as in natural things. For Art imitates nature and in certain things it correcteth it and excelleth it as nature is helped by the industry of the Physician.
Therefore, use nature well because nature cannot be amended but in its own nature, to which bring in no foreign thing, neither powder, nor any other thing, because diverse natures do not make perfect the stone, neither does that enter into it which is not sprung from it. For if any foreign or strange thing be put into it, it is straight corrupted and that which is sought shall not be obtained.
Whereupon, I give you to understand that, unless you take like things in the beginning of the decocting and guide them subtly until they all be made water, till then you have not found out the work. Wherefore, I will make the precious secret known unto the students thereof, they shall not be wearied in vain, because this magistery is nothing else but to decoct Argent vive and Sulphur, until the Argent vive be made all one, which defendeth the Sulphur from burning if the vessel be well closed, so that the Argent vive may not vanish away nor the Sulphur be burned or consumed, because our Argent vive is our pure water. And we see the example in common water, that every thing which is decocted in it is never burnt till the water is consumed and the fire be very strong, and when the water is consumed, then that which is in the vessel is burnt. And therefore, the Philosophers have willed us to stop the mouth of the vessel close, that our blessed water breath not forth, but that it may defend that from burning which is in the vessel, but water being put with these things doth forbid the fire to burn them, and then those things are done and made. And the greater the flame is, yet so much the more be hidden in the inward parts, that it be not hurt by the heat of the fire. The water receiveth them in his belly and repelleth the flame of the fire from them. But I would wish all the searchers after this Art, in the beginning to make a soft fire, till patience be made between the water and the fire, and after you shall see the water fixed without any ascending, then you need not care in what sort the fire be, but yet it is good to govern it with patience, till the spirit and body be made all one, so that the corporate bodies be made incorporate, and the incorporate be made corporate. Therefore, water is the thing which maketh white and red. It is the water which killeth and reviveth. It is the water which burneth and maketh hot. It is the water which dissolveth and congealeth. It is the water which putrefieth and afterwards causeth new and contrary things to spring up. Wherefore, my son, I counsel thee that all thy labour and diligence be used in the decocting of the water. And let it not be irksome unto thee if thou desire to have the fruit thereof and take care for no other vain matters, but for water only. Decoct that water by little and little, by putrefying until it be changed from color into a perfect color, and take care that in the beginning you burn not the flowers and greenness thereof, and be not too hasty in bringing your work to pass, and remember that your door be well and firmly shut, that he which is within fly not out and thus by the help of God you shall obtain a wished effect. Nature makes her operation by little and little, therefore, I would also that you should do so, yea rather let your imagination be according to nature, and see according to nature, of which bodies are regenerated according to nature in the bowels of the earth. Imagine this by true imagination and not phantastically and likewise see in what colour the decoction of them is made, in whether it be violent or pleasant.
Geber ~ Of the Investigation of Truth:
We have considered in our volumes of the secret and natural powers and of the properties of natural things, and by our own experience of the invention of the searching out of a matter altogether certain. We have not found out any other thing but only those things of which our medicine is made, that it may have these properties in itself in transmuting of bodies.
First, that it may have a most subtle earth in itself, and incombustible and apt to fix anything with its own radical moisture.
Secondly, that it may have an airy and fiery moisture uniformly conjoined, so that if one be volatile the rest may be so also, and because that moisture above all other moistures abideth all other moistures, to the accomplishment of this sufficient thickness of ashes so far forth as the want thereof, with an unseparable permanency of the earth that is annexed without evaporation.
Thirdly, because the natural disposition of moisture is such that by the benefit of its homogeneity it hath in all differences of its properties, annexed earth by the conversion of them both, because in the homogeneity of either of them it is tempered virtuously with an inseparable bond of conjoining, and after the degree of final preparation it yieldeth good melting.
Fourthly, that this homogeneity is of such purity of Essence and artificially purified from all combustible and burnt substance, that all things which are joined with it are not burnt by it, but it preserveth them from burning.
Fifthly, because it hath a clear and bright tincture in itself, white, red, pure, incombustible, stable and fixed, which neither the fire is able to change nor burnt sulphurs or sharp corrosives able to corrupt.
Sixthly, because the whole engrafted compound with its final accomplishment is of such subtlety and thinness of substance, that after the final injection of the term of its decoction, it remaineth of most thin melting, in manner of water, and profound penetration even to the permutability of the last thing, of what fusion or melting so ever it be in the accomplishment, and cleaveth naturally to its fume with its affinity and nearness, and with inseparable hardness against the impression of the fire, even in its hour reducing bodies spiritually into its own nature.
These things being considered, we find by our investigation seven necessary and convenient properties in our stone; Oiliness, Thinness, Affinity of Substance, Radical Moisture, Purity, Clearness, Fixing Earth and Tincture.
But the first property of differences is that oiliness giving in projection a universal melting and opening of the medicine. For surely the sudden and convenient fusion of the medicine is chiefly necessary after the projection of the medicine which is done and miscerated with natural oiliness.
The second is the thinness of the matter or the spiritual subtlety thereof, thin and flowing in fusion, like water penetrating to the bottom of an altering thing, because secondly after the fusion of the medicine, the ingression thereof is immediately necessary.
The third is affinity or nearness between the Elixir and the thing to be transmuted, yielding a certain sticking or holding in the meeting of its like, because thirdly after the ingression of the medicine, the sticking or holding is convenient and necessary.
The fourth is radical moisture and fiery congealing, and hardening the refined parts with the adherence of their like and with an inseparable union of all like parts, because fourthly after the adherence or sticking, the hardening or solidifying of parts with its radical and slimy moisture is convenient and necessary.
The fifth is purity and mundified clearness, giving an eminent brightness and splendour in the present combustion, not to those joined after the hardening of the purified parts which are left, because the agent and actual fire may have sufficient to burn all foreign and hardened superfluities, wherefore putrefaction followeth immediately and is very necessary.
The sixth is fixed earth, temperate, thin, subtle, fixed, incombustible, giving permanency of fixation, sticking in solution, standing with itself and persevering against the fire, because sixthly, fixation is necessary after purification.
The seventh is tincture, giving a bright and perfect colour, white and deep red, giving the lunification and solification of transmutable things, because seventhly the just tincting colour or tincture is necessary after fixation, turning any convertible substance into true gold and silver, with all its certain and known differences.
Calidus the Philosopher speaks of our water:
For it is a fire which burneth and grindeth all things, Argent vive is vinegar.
Socrates in the Turba:
The first force is vinegar, that is Argent vive.
If you set the body on the fire without vinegar, it will be burnt, that is without Argent vive … It is most sharp vinegar which maketh the mere body without which no colour cometh.
Note well in the art of our magistery, nothing is concealed of the Philosophers, except the secret of the art, which is not lawful to be revealed to any man, for he that should do so would be accursed, and incur the indignation of the Lord and die with the palsy. Wherefore, all error is in the art, because they take not their due matter out of it, therefore use reverent nature; of it, by it, and in it, our art is engendered and in no other thing, and therefore our magistery is a work of nature and not of a workman. And so he which knoweth not the beginning, obtaineth not the end, and he which knoweth not what he seeks is ignorant also what he shall find.
Know therefore that copper, which is the gold of the Philosophers, is their gold, but Senior said “Our gold is not common gold”. And you have sought after the greenness, thinking that copper had been a leprous body by reason of that greenness which it hath. Whereupon, I tell you that all that is perfect in copper is only that greenness which is in it, because that greenness is by our magistery quickly turned into our most pure gold, and this we have tried, but you can by no means prepare the stone without green and liquid Duenech, which is seen to grow in our minerals. O blessed greenness, which engenders all things. You know that no vegetable and fruit appeareth in growing but it is of a green colour. Know therefore, that the generation of this thing is green, wherefore the Philosophers have called it their growing or springing. And likewise, they have called it water of their purification or putrefaction, and they spoke the truth, because it is purified by their water or purified from its blackness. It is washed and it maketh it white and afterwards red. Know therefore, that there is no true tincture, but of our Copper, decoct it therefore with his soul, grind it, and do thus, until the spirit be conjoined with his body and be made in one, and you shall have your desire. The wisemen have given many names to it, but consider you only of that matter which sticketh to Argent vive and to the bodies, and you shall have the true knowledge and science. But that you may not err, know therefore what it is to stick in the bodies. Some have said that common Argent vive sticketh in the bodies, which is false. For they think that they understand the chapter of Geber intimating of Argent vive, where he saith, “When we search in other things, we find out by our searching nothing to be more friendly to the nature of bodies than Argent vive”. But all this must be understood of the philosophical Argent vive, for it only sticketh in bodies, and the ancient Philosophers could find out no other thing which would stick to the bodies but philosophical Argent vive, because common silver sticketh not in the bodies, but rather the bodies cleave and stick to Argent vive. And this is true by experience, because if common Argent vive be conjoined with any body, the Argent vive remaineth in its own nature, or goeth away and does not turn the body into its nature. And therefore, it sticketh not unto the bodies but the bodies cleave and stick to it, and by reason of this many men are deceived in working in that common Argent vive, because it is clear our occidental stone exceeding Argent vive, which hath preferred itself before gold and hath overcome it, is that which killeth and causeth to revive again. Know therefore, that Argent vive coagulated and mortified in his own nature, is the father of all the miracles of this our magistery, and it is a spirit and a body, that is a spiritual body, because it ascends by sublimation. And this is because Geber said the consideration of the true thing which doeth all things, is the consideration of the choice of the pure substance of Argent vive, but of which especially this substance of Argent vive may be chosen, that must diligently be sought after. And we answering say that it is chosen out of those things in which it is.
Therefore my son, consider and see where that substance is, and take that and none other if you desire to come to the true understanding. I tell thee in the charity of Christ that neither we nor the ancient Philosophers could ever find any thing persevering and abiding in the fire, but only that unctuous, perfect and combustible moisture, and that moisture when it is prepared as it ought to be, it bringeth all bodies which it touches to a most true compliment of gold, and above all bodies and especially Luna.
The root of the art is the soap of the wisemen, and it is the mineral of all salts and it is called bitter salt, because it cometh of the mineral of the sea, and it is more sharp than all salts of its kind. Bodies and spirits are calcined with it and the resolutions and coagulations of Elixir are made with it.
Note this that no silver can be made unless first they be all dissolved.
Secondly, that no solution ought to be made but in the proper and appropriated blood, that is, in water of Mercury which is called Dragon’s Water.
Thirdly, that no Dragon Water ought to be made by an alembic, without any other thing added, and in the making of it there is a great stink.
Fourthly, that with that body of water an Amalgam may be dissolved, as also a body, a spirit and briefly all things in general, which are of its nature.
Fifthly, that that water ought to be pure and clean, and therefore should not be made but of a purged Dragon. And let the Dragon be purged by elevating it three times and then by reviving it.
Sixthly, that the dissolved must be purified in warm and moist, that is in horse dung. Of this one blackness riseth.
Seventhly, that it be coagulated in the dry Sun, in moisture that is in Balneo Maria.
Eighthly, that the time of the perfection of Elixir is less than one year, yet we must see that it be the time of the increase of man in the womb of the mother.
Ninthly, that Mercury is by no means killed, but with the smell of the body, perfected red to red and of white to white. And that the body can give weight, his own weight remaining, there are four things with which our work is effected, that is Weight, Fire, Body and Spirit.
Tenthly, that all revived things are not to be refused in the Art.
Eleventhly, that the thing being prepared and put in the vessel, it will then be women’s work and children’s play, because the magistery may be done in one vessel. Likewise, whosoever hath true Mercury, hath Elixir also, because Elixir is mortified Mercury, or fixed with the smell of the body, because the Dragon dieth not but with his brother and sister. Note likewise, that Mercury must altogether be made of the body, that is, that fixed be made volatile with volatile, that is with pure Mercury. And it is needful that there be more of the volatile than of the fixed, from double to fivefold to sixfold unto tenfold, and no further, and the more volatile parts there are, so much the more slowly are they fixed, and the fixed is made volatile in the space of one month. And note that, Elixir cannot be unless the body and spirit pass through all the Elements. That is, through all natures of Elements, that first they may be made earth, afterwards air, that is vapour, thirdly water, and fourthly fire, for everything is called fire which doth not fly the fire, nor diminish nor consume in the fire.
He that will search out the secret of this Art must know the first matter of our bodies, for otherwise he shall spend his labour in vain.
The first matter of bodies is not common mercury, but it is an unctuous and moist vapour. For of the moist the mineral stone is made, and of the unctuousness the metallic body. For it is meet that the bodies be converted into such an unctuous vapour, and in the conversion the bodies are killed and the grain [seed] of the body is overthrown with death and altogether mortified, and this is done by the aid of our white and red water. And understand it, that unless the grain of Corn, that is the grain of the body, be cast into the earth, that is into its first water, which is an unctuous vapour or the mercury of the wise men and of the Philosophers, and such a vapour is called the known Stone in the chapters of books, and the beginning of the matter of our operation, and unctuous sulphur out of which the Fifth Essence is extracted, in the accomplishment Mercury tinctureth every body into Sol and Luna, according to which way the Stone hath been finally prepared. Note likewise, that although all ancient wise men of Alchemy have spoken many things and conclude of Salt, and because they speak of the Soap of the Wise and the Key that shutteth and openeth and shutteth again and no man openeth without this Key, they say that no man in this world can come to the perfection of this Science unless he know to calcine Salt after its preparation. And they say that it must be in a temperate place the space of three days, that the heat of the fire and the fumes may evaporate away. And therefore I conclude of this, that every good and perfect medicine of Alchemy and Elixir or powder must be in manner of Salt, and be Salt itself, and have the virtue of Salt in being of slow fusion and penetrating when cast on the bodies of melted or fiery metals. And of this Geber warneth us when he sayeth “It is necessary that the medicine be of a more speedy melting than Mercury, so that it may sooner melt before the flight of Mercury, and that the fire may not consume nor destroy it, and then it is called fusible salt and incombustible oil, and the Soap of the Wise.”
Note likewise, that the Salt of metals transmuteth Mercury into true Sol and Luna and thus the Salt of Animals transmuteth every animal into true temperance and a good complexion. The fire of dung is the agent cause in the work of the Digestion of our Stone, neither is the fire of Balneo Maria of any force, although it be most temperate in the place thereof.
To decoct that in fire which I shall show unto thee, is to bury it in moist horse dung, because the fire of wise men is moist and obscure, and it is warm in the second degree and moist in the first degree. The property of this fire is not to destroy oil that is the substance, but it augmenteth by reason of this temperate moisture for that heat only is equal and temperate, and such is very necessary in the generation of that thing.
Because the fumes are most subtle and have need of temperate decoction, that they may be thickened in themselves, according to the equality for temperate heat only, is the thickening of moistness and perfection of mixture, and not exceeding too far, for the generations and procreations of natural things have been accustomed to be done by most temperate and equal heat, as horse dung only is moist and warm.
Hermes The Fourth Book of Treatises:
It behoveth him who would enter into this art and secret wisdom to repel the vice of arrogancy from him, and to become virtuous and honest and profound in reason, courteous unto men, merry and pleasant of countenance, patient and a concealer of secrets. My Son, before all things I counsel thee to fear God, in whom the sight of thy disposition remains, and the help of every thing sequestered from thee.
Geber ~ The Book of Perfect Magistery:
It is necessary for the Artificer of this science to be most subtle of wit, and to know and understand the natures of metals and their generations, infirmities and imperfections in their minerals, before he can come to this Art. Let no workman come to search out this Art, being loaded with gross and dull wit, or being sparing or covetous in his expenses, nor any man of double or variable mind, either over-happy or captious, but the Son of Learning imbued with a subtle and politic wit, sufficiently rich, bountiful, healthful, firm and constant in his purpose, patient, gentle, long-suffering and temperate.
Know, My Son, that thou canst not obtain this science until thou purify thy mind onto God, and till God knoweth thee to have a staid and upright mind, and then he will make thee to reign and rule over the world.
If God knew there were a faithful mind in man, he would then reveal this Secret unto him.
The Correction of the Ignorant:
It is necessary for every Art to imitate the Scoria, and to understand the nature thereof, and thus art imitates his nature. Know, ignorant man, that by Art nature itself is known and cannot be amended, and of necessity the follower of nature must come to a perfect end of the Secrets of the Philosophers.
Hermes and Geber:
He which shall once bring this Art to a full end if he should live a thousand years, and should every day nourish four thousand men, yet he should never want.
He is so rich which hath the stone whereof Elixir is made, as he which hath fire may give fire to whom he will, when he will, and as much as he will without any peril or want unto himself.
The Table of the Greater Science:
First there is had in our Green Lion the true matter, and of what colour it is, and is called Adrop, Azoth, or Duenech virid.
In the second there is likewise had, as in the third chapter, how bodies are dissolved into philosophical argent vive, that is into water of our mercury, and it is made one new body.
In the fourth, the putrefaction of the philosophers is had, which hath never been seen in our days, and it is called Sulphur.
In the fifth, is had how the great part of this water is made black and feculent earth whereof all philosophers speak.
In the sixth, is had how that black earth stood in the beginning above the water, and how by little and little it hath been drowned in the bottom of the vessel.
In the seventh, is had how that earth is dissolved again into water in the colour of oil, and then it is called the Oil of the Philosophers.
In the eighth, is had how the Dragon is born in his blackness and is fed with his Mercury, and killeth himself and is drowned in it, and the water is somewhat whitened, and that is Elixir.
In the ninth, is had how the water is wholly purified from his blackness and remains the colour of milk, and many colours appear in the blackness.
In the tenth, is had how those black clouds which were in the vessel above the water, descended into their body from whence they came.
In the eleventh, is had how that ashes is made most white, like glistening marble, and that is White Elixir, and the increase is ashes.
In the twelfth, is had how that whiteness is converted into redness like a ruby, and that is Red Elixir.
And if thou wilt understand the whole work perfectly, then read one part after another and thou shall see miracles.
I have seen all these things in my days, even to the Lion. I have not spoken of all things which are appertaining and necessary to this work because there are some things which men may not speak of. And it is impossible to know this art unless it be known of God, or of a Master who may touch Him. And know that this is a very long way, therefore patience is necessary in this our magistery.
Argent vive is common salt.
Common salt dissolveth gold and silver, and it augmenteth redness in Gold and whiteness in Silver, and it changeth Copper from his corporality to spirituality, and therewith are bodies calcined.
Light of Lights:
If the omnipotent God had not created this salt, Elixir could not have been effected, and the study of Alchemy had been but lost labour.
Note this, there are four Mercuries — Crude Mercury, Sublimed Mercury, Mercury of Magnesia, and Unctuous Mercury. But Mercury is full of Luna: Mercury of the Philosophers, that is the substance in which the Mercury of the Philosophers is contained. And it is that which nature hath but little worked and framed it into a metallic form, and yet he hath left it imperfect. Thus we must note that it is such a thing which is called the middle of Ingression, which is neither perfect nor altogether imperfect. Because, of nothing, nothing can be made, and because nature hath not finished in it, therefore the workman may reduce it from imperfection to perfection, by helping nature itself, and that is called the Stone of Invisibleness, the Holy Stone, the Blessed Thing.
Argent vive hath no adustion, therefore its purifying is a renewing of its earthiness and wateriness by policy, which if it be pure, it will coagulate that strength of white Sulphur not burning, into Silver, and this is so excellent a thing that by workmanship Elixir may be made of it for Silver, but if it be excellent red Sulphur of a nature not burning, then it is so notable a thing that Elixir for Gold may be made of it. Such Sulphur is our Sulphur, and the Sulphur of the Wise, and it is not found out above the earth, unless it be extracted out of these bodies.
Sulphur which is hidden in Argent vive is a thing giving a golden form to that Argent vive by the virtue of the colour of his outward mineral Sulphur.
Such sulphur is not found on the earth, but that which is in bodies, therefore let these bodies be subtly prepared that we may have Sulphur on the earth, for a perfect body by our magistery, helpeth and bringeth to pass an imperfect thing, without the mixture of any other strength or foreign thing. For otherwise the Sulphur of what kind soever it be, will hinder the true melting, as is manifest in Iron which melteth not, because it is known to have fixed Sulphur in it. And though it be not fixed but taketh right melting, yet it is hindred and burnt of the fire, and doth evaporate away, as is manifest in Lead, and in other infirm bodies.
Therefore, common Sulphur is not of the truth of our Art, nor of its perfection, because it hindreth the perfect in all its operations.
Sulphur can never be fixed unless it be first calcined, and when it is calcined, it yieldeth no fusion or melting.
Sulphur and Arsenic are not the true medicine of this magistery, because they neither accomplish nor effect fully, as hath been sufficiently known of all the lesser minerals.
The property of Sulphur is to congeal Mercury and to bring it to pass or make it perfect with Mercury, but tincture only consisteth of two perfect bodies out of which those Sulphurs may be chosen.
The foundation of this art is Sol and his shadow.
Three forms suffice for the whole magistery that is white fume, that is the first force, that is to say celestial water, and the Green Lion, which is the Copper of Hermes, and stinking water, which is the mother of all metals, of the which, by the which, and with the which, the Philosophers prepare Elixir in the beginning and the end. Therefore conceal from no man these three forms to the perfection thereof, but a fool handleth this magistery about every other thing.
Philosophy hath three parts, that is to say, Sol, Luna and Mercury. Of those being joined together, father Hermes knew how to make tincture.
Johannes of Aquino:
He which knoweth not the destruction of Gold, cannot know the making thereof, by the necessary course of nature, so that it is more easy to make Gold than to destroy it, but he who believing to bring tincture to a wished end without those things, proceedeth blindly in practise, as an ass to his supper, because the body passeth not into the body, nor the spirit into the spirit, for form receives neither impression of form, nor matter of matter, because like hath no action nor passion in his like, when no one of them is more worthy than the other, because like hath no rule or government over like.
There is no true generation, but of things agreeing in nature, because the things are not done but according to their nature, for the willow never bringeth forth pears, nor the bush good pomegranates, neither can an evil tree make good fruit.
Our Mercury is converted into every nature or natures, with which it shall be joined or coupled.
He who knows to destroy Gold, that it shall be no more Gold, attains to the greatest secret.
It is a hard thing for Gold to be destroyed, but most hard to be made. It is more easy to destroy accidentally than essentially.
Gold is altogether Mercury, which is manifest by the weight thereof, and by the easy combination of that Mercury. Therefore, the total and radical intention of the Philosophers is in it, for it hath obtained these virtues and excellencies, by the help of the celestial heat and motion of the planets, which by themselves is impossible to increase. But a workman if he begins this work, may attain to all these things in Mercury, by meditation and help of the fire and by policy which is the abandoner of Labour.
It is manifest that much quantity of Argent vive is the cause of perfection in bodies, but much sulphureity is the cause of imperfection and corruption.
Euclides (that most wise man):
We should not work anything but in Sol and Mercury joined together, of which the Stone of the Philosophers consists. Of perfection, nothing is made because it is already perfect, as we have an example in bread. Leavened bread is perfect in its state and essence, and cometh to its last end, neither can more be leavened by it, as it is in Gold. Pure Gold is brought by the trial of the fire into a firm and fixed body, and it is impossible for the Philosophers to ferment or leaven any more with it, unless the first matter of metals be had, in which Gold may be resolved into his first matter, and into the mingled elements. Let us therefore, take that matter whereupon Gold shall be made, and by the help of workmanship be brought into the true ferment of Philosophers, and by policy, we may change this into a perfect substance, or into the spirit of perfect bodies, wherefore, ever many Philosophers labouring herein are deceived, because they leave off the work, where it should be begun. 0 ye Sons of Learning who hope to gather the fruit before it be ripe, and hope to mow before the harvest comes.
Of that which is perfect nothing can be done or made, because the perfect forms of things are not changed in their nature but rather corrupted. Nor of a thing altogether imperfect, can any thing be made according to Art. The reason is because art cannot induce the first dispositions but our Stone is a middle thing between perfect and imperfect bodies, and what nature itself has begun, that is brought to perfection by Art. And if thou begin to work in Mercury itself, where nature hath left it imperfect, thou shall find perfection and shall rejoice. That which is perfect is not altered, but is corrupted, but an imperfect thing may be well altered. Therefore, the corruption of one thing is the generation of another thing.
Our Stone must of necessity be extracted from the nature of two bodies before the accomplishment of the Elixir can be made of it, because it is necessary that Elixir be more purged and digested than Gold or Silver, because it must convert it altogether from his diminished perfection, into the Gold or Silver of the Philosophers, which those cannot bring to pass. For if they should give of their perfection unto another, those would remain imperfect, by reason that they cannot tinct but as much as they show themselves. Because nothing whiteneth but according to its own whiteness, neither doth anything make red but according to its own redness. And therefore, according to this the works in our Stone are done, that the tincture may be more bettered in it than in its nature, and that the Elixir may be made according to the allegory of wise men, of clear forms, treacle, medicine, and purgation of all bodies, to be purged and transformed into true Silver and Gold.
There is the conjunction of two bodies made, and it is necessary in our magistery, and if but one of our two bodies only should be in our Stone, it would never give tincture by any means.
Therefore the Philosopher sayeth, “The wind hath carried him in his belly”, wherefore it is manifest, the wind is the air, and the air is the Life, and the Life is the Soul, that is, oil and water.
Trial declares the orders between the mean quantity of the fire, because in the Dissolving, the fire should be light always, in the Sublimation mean, in the Coagulation temperate, continual in the Whitening, and strong in the Rubification. But if thou err ignorantly in these points, thou will often bewail thy hard hap luck and lost Labour. Therefore it is necessary that you diligently follow the work because Art is helped by Policy, and likewise Policy by Art, give attendance to the accomplishment only and let other things pass.
St. Thomas of Aquinas: The matter of the Stone is a thick water, but the heat or cold, is the agent congealing that water. And assure yourself that the stones which proceed from Animals, are much more precious than other stones.
Light of Lights:
No kind of stones can be prepared without Duenech, the Green and liquid, because it is of a force and engendered in our minerals.
My Son, behold the most highest worldly things which are from the right hand and the left hand, and ascend thither where our Stone is found, and in that mountain which bringeth forth all kind of Sulphurs and shapes and likewise minerals.
The Stone which is necessary in this work is of a thing having life. You shall find this Stone everywhere, in plains, mountains and in waters, and both the poor and the rich have it. It is most cheap and most dear, it increaseth of flask and blood, and most precious to the man who hath it and knoweth it.
The Philosophers have said, that our Stone is of a spirit, soul and body, and they say the truth, for they have called the imperfect body-a body, ferment — the soul, and water- the spirit. And they have truly called them so, for the imperfect body by itself is a grievous body, weak and dead; water is the spirit purging the body, making it subtle and white; ferment is the soul which giveth life to the imperfect body, which life it had not before and bringeth it into a better form. The body is Venus and the woman; the Spirit is Mercury and the man; the soul is Sol and Luna. The Body must melt into his first matter which is Mercury.
Our Mercury is not had but out of melted bodies, not with common liquefaction but only with that which endureth till the man and wife be associated and united in true matrimony and this even unto whiteness.
Take phlegmatic and choleric blood and grind them, until the blood be made tincturing heaven.
Understand, you sons of wisdom, that this precious Stone crieth out saying, defend me and I will defend thee, give me my right that I may help thee, for Sol is mine and the beams thereof are my inward parts; but Luna is proper to me, and my light excelleth all light, and my goods are higher than all goods. I give much riches and delights to men desiring them, and when I seek after anything they acknowledge it, I make them understand and I cause them to possess divine strength. I engender light, but my nature is darkness. Unless my metal should be dry, all bodies have need of me, because I moisten them. I blot out their rustiness and extract their substance.Therefore I and my son being joined together, there can be nothing made more better nor more honourable in the whole world.
The Disposition of the Vessel fit for our work According to the tradition of one Ferrarius by name:
Make a round glass vessel and let the bottom be of a small quantity in the manner of a little dish, and in the middle thereof, let there be a brim with an earthen girdle or ring encompassing it about, and let a round wall be built upon that girdle equally distant from the wall of the shell, of the thickness of the cover of that shell, so that in this distance the wall of the cover may fall largely without any thrusting down, but let the height of this wall be according to the height of the wall of the shell, or somewhat more or less. Let there be two covers made according to the measure of this hollowness and let the length be equal and the breadth of two great hands, and the shape of one of them like a pyramid. And in the heads of them let there be two equal holes, that the one may be in the one and the other in the other into both which a hen’s feather may fall, but the whole intention of the vessel is that the cover thereof may be removed according to the will of the workman. The special intention concerning this is that the lower hollow place with its brims, enter into its cover even to the middle.
The Dragon dieth not unless he be killed with his Brother and Sister, not by one only, but by both together, that is by Sol and Luna.
Mercury never dieth unless he be killed by his Brother and Sister, that is, we must congeal it with Sol and Luna.
Note that, the Dragon is Argent vive, extracted out of bodies, having a body in himself, a soul and a spirit. Whereupon he saith, “The Dragon dieth not but with his Brother and Sister”, that is with Sol and Luna, which is extracted Sulphur, having in itself the nature of moisture and coldness by reason of Luna. The Dragon dies with them – that is, Argent vive extracted from those bodies in the beginning, which is the Permanent Water of the Philosophers, which is made after the putrefaction and separation of the elements, and the water otherwise is called Stinking Water.
The Copper which before I spoke of is neither copper nor common tin, but it is our true work, because it must be mingled with the body of Magnesia that it may be decocted and grinded with aqua vitae, until it be destroyed. But you Sons of Learning, you must have much water, and that continually, until you have put it by parts and that the greatest part of the earth be dissolved.
That which is spiritual, ascendeth upwards in the vessel, but that which is thick and gross, remaineth downwards in the vessel, and unless you deal with the body in this sort, until the water will not be mingled with it, or be received of the earth, you shall but lose your labour. Therefore, unless you turn all into spiritual powder, you have not yet contrived it, i.e. grinded it, and that which you do in the white body do likewise in the red, because this medicine is […]
Of the Salt of the Philosophers:
There are three Stones and three Salts, of which the whole magistery consists, that is to say Mineral, Plant and Animal, and there are three waters, that is of Sol, of Luna, and of Mercury. Mercury is an Mineral, Luna a plant, because it receiveth in itself two Colours, Whiteness and Redness, and Sol is an Animal because it receiveth three things, that is, Constriction, Whiteness, and Redness. And Sol is called the Great Animal, and Salt Armoniac is made of it; and Luna is called a Plant and Salt Alkali is made of it, but Mercury is called the mineral Stone and common Salt is made of it. Likewise when the Philosophers saw the substance of this Art dissolved, they called it Salt Armoniac, and when it was putrefied they said our Stone was base, and is found on a dunghill, and many have dug and laboured in the dunghill and have found nothing. And when it is converted into water, then both poor and rich have it, and it is found in every place, at any time, and in every thing, although the searching aggravates the searcher. And when it was white, they called it Arsenic, and by the name of every white thing, and also Virgin’s MiIk, and when it was red they called it Sulphur, Jacinth and Blood, and by the name of every red thing.
Ashes may be made of every thing, and of those Ashes, Salt may be made, and of that Salt may water be made, and of that water is Mercury made, and of that Mercury by divers operations is Sol made.
Truly this ash wants to melt, which moreover it enters favourably in order that it may tinct, melting or liquefaction is added to it, or else sweat by some means is delivered of the Philosophers. Therefore, what means is that? Is it in dissolving the waters? Surely not, because the Philosophers respect not the waters and other moistures sticking to that which is touched.
Whosoever will alter and change bodies and spirits from their nature, must first reduce them to the natures of Salts and Alums, otherwise it will not be done and then it dissolveth them.
Salts and Alums are those which are made in our work. Arnold: He that hath fusible salt and incombustible oil, let him praise God.
If thou wilt be rich, prepare Salts until they be pure water, because Salts are converted into Spirit by fire. Salts are the root of our work.
All Salts of what kind so ever, are contrary to our Art, except the Salt of our Lunaria.
The Salt of metal dissolves Mercury in pure water, under dung and that mixture being coagulated will be a perfect medicine.
Note that, all Salts well prepared return to the nature of Salt Armoniac, and the whole secret is in common salt well prepared. Note that the Roman Vitriol hath the nature of the Stone of Metals, and it is hot and dry. Likewise, Alum seems to be coagulated Mercury, but it goeth from his accomplishment, hot and moist and it is called the like of one that is Mercury. Therefore, he that knoweth Salt and the Solution thereof, knoweth likewise the hidden secret of the Ancient wise men. Therefore, set thy mind on Salt and cogitate on nothing else, for in that only the science and greatest secret of all the Ancient Philosophers is hidden.