Chapter 2. Sophic Fire

The time has come to provide a few hints for experiments and research work in the art of alchemy. The student is here warned not to undervalue the information that is being revealed, nor to imagine that the explanations now given are of little account. A wrong move may lead to anxious months of waiting for something which will never happen to take place. The farmer might just as well wait for crops that will never emerge from the ground. The prize is indeed fabulous, so the experimenter should not expect to find recipes as from a cookery book. This is not said facetiously, but purposely, because it has often been told that the whole art consists of first cooking, and later roasting; and this fact appears quite true. To commence it is necessary to become acquainted with the following factors, each of which will be elucidated as we proceed.

(a) The principles or metals necessary to take in hand.
(b) The proportions of the ingredients which form the compounds.
(c)  The kind of heating apparatus suitable for continuous use.

(d) The necessary vessels, their sizes and shapes.
(e) The correct temperatures to follow in the working.
(f)  The periods of time during which to expect changes to take place.
(g) The colours and signs to be expected at each stage.

First it is advisable for the novice to try to gain some modern knowledge of metallurgy. With the aid of a simple textbook on the subject of metals, he can become acquainted with their characteristics (with which one has to work) and how they react to one another. One should know the colours they give off when wet and dry, their weight density and melting points, and how they agree or disagree when amalgamated with one another.

(a) The metals necessary to take in hand
Three are essential; and these are the salt, sulphur and mercury-or the secret fire, sulphur and mercury. Gold or silver is the sulphur, mercury is prepared from antimony and iron, or a regulus of these two. The secret fire might be the name given to the mercury when prepared, or might be a kind of water which acts as a catalyst. These two names are always purposely mixed up, that is, one often being named for the other so that mistakes may be made, but in truth they are two different things. The secret fire which might be termed the fiery water dissolves the metals; this latter is a salt nitrate, often termed vinegar, to be found everywhere, easily, and never valued; yet never mentioned in any alchemical treatise by name. (A natural product found everywhere and in everything.)

(b) Proportions of the ingredients to form the first compound “From The Marrow of Alchemy by Philalethes:

“Take of the red man one (iron); of the white wife three (antimony); and mix (which is a good proportion); then of the water four let there be . . . The mixture is our lead, which unto motion will be moved by a most gentle heat, which . . . This makes the regulus and will produce the mercury; and with the same proportion, add one part gold, which is the sulphur.” Do not add the sulphur until the regulus is made.

(c) The type of heating apparatus for continuous use

A modern electrical hot-plate, with thermometer, and thermostat (one which must be reliable, for the fire must never go out from start to completion, through many months of watching). A hot-plate which will continue to function correctly when left for many days; and one on which the temperature may be raised as the processes are passed through. Heat used to start from 100°F. to 300°F. plus. The temperature is a great secret, as too cold may never achieve the desired objective, and too hot will spoil the work. Too hot drives all the liquid upward and the solid matter dries out for want of it.

(d) The vessels needed
Strong heat-resisting glass flasks with long necks, up to six inches. Glass retorts, scales, funnels, stone pestle and mortar and similar equipment used in modern chemistry. Sizes of flasks should be from 50 ml. to 250 ml. The closures to flasks must be airtight and perfect, else all will fail. Use modern rubber bungs or the glass may explode with the rarefying liquid, as the rubber bung is forced out instead of the flask exploding.

(e) The correct temperatures
Nature is simple in all her ways, and this art being a purely natural process, it is necessary that one holds in mind that everything that is carried out should be simple. In this art, nature brings about all the changes herself, after the conditions have been set, exactly as the farmer grows his produce. Digesting or cooking is all that nature needs, and not the heat of a furnace, at least not until the stone is made. A furnace is required later, but that should not be used except for the transmutation in which metals are melted in a crucible, with the Philosopher’s Stone, and changed into gold or silver. Otherwise it is only dissolving and coagulating, “opening and shutting” as the alchemists term it, and this is best carried out on a hot-plate. Fermentation, projection and transmutation occur after the red or white powder is produced, but as these will be dealt with later on in this book, for the time being we may leave them in abeyance.

(f) The periods before changes can be expected
These are doubtful, depending upon the correct heat, the proportions used, and other factors, but most adepts say forty-two days to the black stage, ninety days to the white stage, and five months to the red stage which signifies completion. Once the powder is made these times may be reduced to a few days to make any amount more with the finished product.

(g) The colours and signs to be expected
Sir George Ripley, Canon of Bridlington, who flourished in the days of Edward IV, wrote some books on the art, of which the chief one, a lengthy poem, was entitled The Twelve Gates of Alchemy. This poem was divided into twelve parts, and each part was presented as a gate. The titles of the gates taken altogether, give the whole secret and details of the working, from the beginning to completion. Note however that nowhere is there given the names of any actual metals to be used in the art of alchemy! Later these Twelve Gates will be fully presented in Chapter 8 of this book, but for the present their titles are useful, in that they outline the sequence of alchemical operations.

1. Calcination
Reducing the principles to atoms, but not by burning.
2. Dissolution
Dissolving the metals, time and nature doing the work.
3. Separation
Separating the light parts from the heavy parts.
4. Conjunction
Joining the principles. Amalgamating the elements.
5. Putrefaction
The first change to be seen. Blackness appearing.
6. Congealation
The liquidised matter congeals, or solidifies.
7. Cibation
When the matter in the vessels appear dry, it is wetted again.
8. Sublimation
Extraction by volatilisation or distillation.
9. Fermentation
Adding the required precious metal as a yeast to empower the powder or stone to transmute.
10. Exaltation
Raising the power or virtue enabling it to transmute.
11. Multiplation
Raising the quantity and quality of the powder or stone.
12. Projection The work of transmutation into gold and silver.

If these twelve processes appear formidable to the beginner, remember the alchemists’ saying, that it is “child’s play and woman’s work”! Much of the work is done by nature; we are also told that “there must be no laying on of hands”, or moving the vessel, once the conditions are set. By analogy, the farmer’s work could easily be divided into twelve divisions in the same way. Preparing the land and sowing the seed could be represented by several of the gates; what follows and is carried out by nature, could be categorised under a few more, until the results are ready for gathering; then the farmer’s work in harvesting might be represented by the remaining gates. This is one example of the working of the twelve gates and could represent the working and meaning of the three processes that have been mentioned earlier in this book.

Next, in order to mislead the student, some cunning adepts have denied that metals are the basic matter of the Philosophers’ Stone. There must be no doubt at all on this point, for to make gold and silver from any other matter is absolutely senseless. This piece of guile has wasted the lives of many searchers.

Another difficulty has been the claim of some treatises that “one only thing” is the matter of the stone, while others claim any number up to seven. The reader is advised to ignore these quibbles. Indeed when the stone is made, it all comes to one thing, and only three metals are used. The rest only come into use at transmutation into gold or silver, after the red or white powder is made.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance to remember there are three stages or processes to pass through before the completion of the Philosophers’ Stone. The reader might ask why this is so important. Well, the answer is that processes are mentioned at various times, but rarely whether they are the first, second or third; and this must be specially noted, that the first or starting point is hardly ever mentioned, for this beginning is the greatest secret of all, and it is hidden, suppressed and ignored by all the philosophers. If a hint is ever dropped, it is never indicated which matter they are talking about. In fact, so well has this been done that the beginner could be entirely oblivious of it. Yet note well, whole treatises have been written about this first hidden matter, which is nothing else but the preparation known as the “Secret Fire” which is not a metal at all, but the very necessary catalyst for melting all the metals. The “Secret Fire “ is also the prepared mercury.

To sum up, to make the Philosophers’ Stone, three items are used, but never vulgar mercury or quicksilver. Then there is a water or “secret fire” which is the catalyst and which some adepts have called mercury.

Even when it is guessed that metals were the basic components (many treatises never speak of anything at all to work on) one is still not given some method of beginning experiments. The small number of scientists who wrote books on the subject of alchemy in the last fifty years certainly did not know. The adepts, in their books, always speak of salt, sulphur and mercury, which principles in use are none of the three we know under those names. In the various stages of alchemy, the metals have so changed their appearance, colours and texture, becoming a slime, powder or soot, that they can hardly be called metals at all, and the artful masters of the art have taken full advantage of this to mislead and mystify the tyro. When some wrote that metals are not used in alchemy, they felt that evasive information of this kind was speaking the truth, but this half-truth was a downright lie to the student, who knew that an apple is still an apple even when changed into a pie.

Most of the old writers on alchemy have treated the subject of the art as though it was one continuous process from beginning to the end, but as already said, it is performed in three stages; each when finished is preparatory to the next. However, very rarely did they put these in the correct order, the first stage was almost always ignored, and they mostly started at the last!

A quotation which confirms this is taken from a book entitled Ripley Revived, a commentary on Ripley by Philalethes who lived in the seventeenth century:

“And in the first place, we shall treat of the regimen of mercury, which is a secret hitherto not discovered by any philosophers; for they verily do begin their work at the second regimen, and so give the young practitioner no light in the magistery in the capital signs of blackness; on this point that good Marquis of Trevlsan was silent . . . and therefore he passeth over in silence the first and most intricate regimen which is forty or fifty days ere it is fully complete, in which time the poor practitioner is left to uncertain experiments and so remains a great space, and this secret before me no man has ever yet found discovered.”

The blackness spoken of here is the result of the work of the first stage, in which the metals turn into a black slime. This indeed is the key spoken of which opens the door to all the rest of the work, for knowing this, one has the general idea of how to do the whole work, because the truth is that all the stages follow the same routine. A great deal more might be added to round out the picture of alchemy for those newly come to the science, but it would be better to proceed by examining the first book, and then go on to explain, by adding extracts here and there to bear out what is being elucidated.

The first book chosen is entitled The Sophic Fire by John Pontanus, a master of alchemy who lived in the Middle Ages. This particular book is taken from among a great number, because it is succinct, direct to the heart of the subject, and without evasion and prevarication. More than this, this treatise truthfully points out to the searcher a book that stands out like a welcome beacon to point the way to success in the art. We will speak of this book later. Meanwhile here is the Sophic Fire in full. Brackets indicate comments by the present author.



by John Pontanus

“I, John Pontanus, have travelled through many countries, that I might know the certainty of the philosophers’ stone: and I found many deceivers, but no true philosophers, which put me upon incessant studying, and making many doubts, till at length I found out the truth. But when I had attained the knowledge of the matter in general, yet I erred at least two hundred times, before I could attain to know the singular thing itself, with the work and practice thereof.

“First, I began with the putrefaction of the matter, which I continued for nine months together, and obtained nothing. I then for some certain time tried a ‘Balneum Marie’ [a warm water bath, but in vain. After that, I used a fire of calcination for three months space, and still found myself out of the way. I essayed all sorts of distillations and sublimations, as the philosophers, Geber, Archelaus, and all the rest of them have prescribed, and yet found nothing: In sum, I attempted to perfect the whole work of alchemy by all imaginable and likely means-as by horse-dung [this is a specification of a heat used, baths, ashes, and other heats of divers kinds, all which are found in philosophers’ books, yet without success. I yet continually for three years together studied the books of the philosophers, and that chiefly in Hermes [he is known as the father of alchemy, whose concise words comprehend the sum of the whole matter [maybe, but hopeless to follow until one knows the work, viz. the secret of the philosophers’ stone, by an obscure way of speaking, of what is superior, and what is inferior, to wit, of heaven and earth. Therefore our operation which brings the matter into being, in the first, second, and third work [take good notice of three stages, which processes are rarely mentioned anywhere, is not any of those things mentioned above and found in the books of the philosophers. Shall I demand then, what it is that perfects the work, since the wise men have thus concealed it? Truly, being moved with a generous spirit, I will declare it, with the complement of the whole work.


“The Lapis Philosophorum, therefore, is but one, though it has many names, which before you conceive them, will be very difficult. For it is watery [liquid], airy [volatile], fiery, earthy: it is salt, sulphur, mercury, and phlegm; it is sulphureous, yet is argent vive [twice here, quicksilver is mentioned]; it has many superfluities, which are turned into the true essence by the help of our fire. ‘Our fire ‘ is not just ordinary fire and notice that the subject mentioned here is ‘fiery’. Could this be our fire? This ‘our fire’ is the greatest secret of alchemy, and usually known in the art as the ‘Secret Fire’. He that separates anything from the subject or matter, thinking it to be necessary, wholly errs in his philosophy. [This is said because most adepts write that one must separate the clean from the muddy or dirty matter, but one must know what is clean and what is dirty. In the first stage everything is changed into wet mud, or dry soot, even gold and silver look like this. That which is superfluous, unclean, filthy, feculent, and in a word, the whole substance of the subject is transmuted or changed in a perfect, fixed, and spiritual body, by the help of our fire, which the wise men never revealed, and therefore it is, that few attain to this art, as thinking that to be superfluous and impure, which is not. In alchemy, a fixed metal is one that remains the same no matter what is done with it, or however treated. Now Pontanus proceeds to speak of the character of ‘our Fire’, which is not fire but acts, in fact, more powerfully than any fire.

“It behoves us now to enquire after the properties of ‘our fire’, and how it agrees with our matter, according to that which I have said, viz. that a transmutation may be made, though the fire is not such as to burn the matter, separating nothing from it, nor dividing the pure parts from the impure, as the philosophers teach [now you can understand why it is hopeless to study most of the alchemical treatises, for most of them are written to mislead, unless you already know the stumbling blocks, but our fire transmutes and changes the whole subject into purity. Nor does it sublime after the manner- of Geber’s sublimation, nor the sublimations or distillations of Arnoldous, or others: but it is perfected in a short time. [Pontanus continues to say how misleading most adepts are in their works, and goes on to explain the characteristics of ‘our fire’.]

“It is a matter mineral, equal, continuous, vapours or fumes not, unless too much provoked; partakes of sulphur, and is taken otherwise than from matter. It destroys all things, dissolves, congeals, coagulates and calcines, adapted to penetrate, and is a compendium, without any great cost. And that is the fire, with a gentle heat, soft or remiss, by which the whole work is perfected, with all the proper sublimations. [Take good notice of what follows, and go no further than this book, else you are lost in a maze of instructions which will utterly confuse.] They who read Geber, with all the rest of the philosophers, though they should survive a hundred thousand years, yet they would not be able to comprehend it, for that this fire is found by a profound cogitation only, which being once apprehended, may then be gathered out of books and not before.

“The error, therefore, in this work, proceeds chiefly from a not knowing or understanding of the true fire, which is one of the moving principles that transmutes the whole matter into the true philosophers’ stone; and therefore diligently find it out. Had I found that first, I had never been two hundred times mistaken in the pursuit of the matter I so long sought after. For which cause sake, I wonder not that so many, and so great men, have not attained unto the work. They have erred, they do err, and they will err; because the philosophers, Artephius only excepted, have concealed the principle or proper agent. And unless I had read Artephius, and sensibly understood his speech, I had never arrived to the complement of the work.

“Now the principal part is this: Let the matter be taken and diligently ground with a philosophical contrition, put upon the fire, with such a proportion of heat that it only excite or stir up the matter; and in short time that fire, without any laying on of hands, will complete the whole work, because it putrefies, corrupts, generates and perfects the whole work, and makes the three principal colours, viz. the black, white and red to appear. And by the means of this our fire, the medicine will be multiplied by the addition of the crude matter, not only in quantity, but also in quality or virtue. Therefore seek out this fire with all thy industry, for having once found it, thou shalt accomplish thy desire, because it performs the whole work, and is the true key of all the philisophers, which they never yet revealed. Consider well of what I have spoken, otherwise it will be hid from thine eyes.

“Being moved with generosity, I have written these things, that I might speak plainly, this fire is not transmuted with the matter, because it is nothing of the matter, as I have before declared and these things I have thought fit to speak, as a warning to the prudent sons of art, that they spend not their money unprofitably, but may know what they ought to look after; for by this only they may attain to the perfection of the secret, and by no other means.”

The above short treatise speaks of one matter only, and is presumably the most important key to the whole art. For this “Sophic Fire “, or “our fire”, is the great secret without which nothing can be achieved. This Secret Fire, by which it is now known, is not a fire at all, is vital, and acts as a catalyst; it moves the matter onwards to its completion from beginning to end, but always with the aid of an exterior heat which must be gentle; “the heat of a summer’s day, or a chicken on her eggs”. In fact, so powerful is this Secret Fire that one is advised to leave the work to nature, without the “ laying on of hands”.

Note that Pontanus calls this Secret Fire “Argent Vive”, and mercury, among other things. Now ordinary mercury is “the villain of the piece “ in every book ever written on the art, and if ever crude mercury is mentioned at all, it is always with the warning that the searcher can expect only failure if this metal is used.

Once again, remember the old writers were always on their guard lest they should inadvertently divulge any information of too much significance. Nevertheless, true bits of knowledge are strewn about everywhere, and it behoves the searcher to pick them up. Therefore what follows are curious extracts which have been taken from many important books, which tell the researcher in the plainest manner all that he needs to know. In fact what the “ secret fire “ is; what mercury is (or rather what the alchemist calls his mercury), in short the universal solvent of all metals.

Now to the first extract-from the Epistles of Ali-Puli, entitled the Concentrated Centre of Nature:

“I say to you, my students in the study of nature, if you do not find the thing for which you are seeking, in your own self, much less will you find it outside yourself. Understand the glorious strength resident in your own selves. Why trouble to enquire from another? In man named after God, there are things more glorious than to be found anywhere else in the world. Should anyone desire to become a master, he will not find a better material for his achievement anywhere than in himself. Oh, man know thyself. In you resides the treasure of all treasures. Unknowingly this is the great wonder of the world. It is in reality a burning water, a liquid fire, more potent than all fire. In its crude state, it dissolves and absorbs solid gold. It reduces it into a fatty black grey earth, and a thick slimy salt water, without fire or acid, and without any violent reaction, which no other thing in the world can accomplish. Nothing is excluded from it, and though it is the most costly thing in the world, a king cannot possess more of it than a beggar, the wise men of old sought for it and found it.

“Seek for it, my friends, in every way and in everything, though maybe you do not know the hidden source of its origin; and even if you should come to find it, yet you would not have any idea of the aspect of things to be seen within it. Yet I will be explicit; it is a spiritual water, a true spirit, the spirit of life itself. Surely I may be justified in proclaiming: O, water, magnificent, illuminating, sweet; O, bitter and obscure, which strengthens us until the day of our death. This is the foundation stone in truth, which is rejected by the careless ignorance of the builders, and the alchemists even to this day.”

Another curious piece of writing, medieval style, from Experience & Philosophy, a treatise included in Theatrum Chemicum published in 1613, also speaks of the wonderful and mysterious water. In a way it is rather amusing to see how these alchemists were bursting to tell someone of their discoveries, yet buried them more deeply, ever terribly afraid to speak out plainly: making a gesture of giving, before quickly grabbing back their revelation.

“One thing was first employed,
And shall not be destroyed,
It compasseth the world around,
A matter easy to be found:
And yet most hardest to come by,
A secret of secrets, pardye,
That is most vile and least set by,
And it is my love and darling,
Conceived with all living things,
And travels to the worlds ending.”

There are no less than sixteen of these poetic sets, but as one is not likely to learn much from them, this one will be enough.

The following extract will present the reader with a typical example of a misleading text. Eirenaeus Philalethes, an adept who wrote many books, repeatedly assured us “that never was the art so plainly discovered “, but alas he also confesses to deception:

“Such passages as these, we do sometimes use when we speak of the preparation of our mercury, and this we do to deceive the simple and it is also for no other end that we confound our operations, speaking of one when we ought to speak of another. For if this art were plainly set down, our operations would be contemptible even to the foolish. Therefore believe me in this, that because our works are truly natural, we therefore take the liberty to confound the philosopher’s work with that which is purely nature’s work, so that we might keep the simple in ignorance concerning our true vinegre, which being unknown, their labour is wholly lost.”

The above extract confirms what has so far been said concerning misleading texts, but in addition there are some interesting hints in it. Notice first the hint that “their mercury” has to be prepared; in this manner informing us that this preparation of “our mercury” is a first step and a process on its own. In the last sentence, Philalethes calls the mercury vinegre, the nature of which is bitter, biting, sharp. One more hint here, and that is that there is more than one process in the work. Yet other adepts have asserted that there is but one continuous process from beginning to the end.

Alchemical literature is saturated with this kind of poetry, full of riddles, parables, allegories, metaphors, and all sorts of claptrap, which may be ignored when met with, otherwise all kinds of crazy notions will take root in the mind to the detriment of your research. And now perhaps it will be better to entertain something more modern and simple. This comes from the Hermetic Triumph published in 1723. There are two treatises in this book and this one is entitled The Six Reys of Eudoxus. Keep in mind we are still only dealing with the fiery water which is the universal solvent, the sophic mercury, and not common mercury.

‘The first key is that which opens the dark prisons, in which the sulphur is shut up; this is it which knows how to extract the seed out of the body, which forms the stone of the philosophers by the conjunction of the male and the female; of the spirit with the body; of sulphur with mercury. Hermes has manifestly demonstrated the operation of this first key by these words; In the caverns of the metals; there is hidden the stone which is venerable, bright in colour, a mind sublime and an open sea. This stone has a bright glittering; it contains a spirit of a sublime original; it is the sea of the wise, in which they fish for their mysterious fish.” (The open sea, and the sea of the wise is the fiery water.)

Studying alchemical writings, the student will repeatedly come across the claim that alchemy is carried out with “one only thing”, and because all the metals are mentioned, as used in the working in different books, the experimenter is forever perplexed wondering what can be meant by this, since obviously so many different things are named. Finally, one comes to the conclusion that this is another misleading lie. But it need not be a lie at all, for “one only thing” refers to the water without which nothing can be achieved, and this water is indeed the supreme secret, and until this is discovered, and its manner of preparation, all is a waste of time.

One more extract about the Sophic Fire:

“What is the Alkahest? It is a Universal Menstruum, and in a word may be called, Ignis-Aqua, a fiery water, an uncompounded and immortal ens, which is penetrative, resolving all things into their first liquid matter; nor can anything resist its power, for it acts without any reaction from the patient, nor does it suffer anything but its equal, by which it is brought into subjection; but after it has dissolved all things, it remaineth entire in its former nature, and is of the same virtue after a thousand operations as at the first.”




Chapter 3. The Secret Book

In the alchemical art, the seven metals usually mentioned are named after the planets. For example, copper is known as Venus, and where referred to, the student is advised that he should treat it as a symbol of love, or as a conductor, rather than a metal, for as a metal it is of little use in the art of alchemy. Lead is called Saturn, and indicates something dark! black, or forbidding in appearance. Tin, copper and lead are problem metals; tin is connected with the making of silvery compounds, and copper, although it acts as a conductor in the compound of metals, is usually considered of little use in the alchemic process.

However, there is an eighth metal, rarely met with in the many treatises, and then it is usually passed over as though of no account. Yet it is of the greatest importance, for without it nothing may be achieved. Fortunate indeed is the researcher who notices it: the metal is antimony.

We will see in the Secret Book of Artephius, which John Pontanus found to be the only book among thousands which could be relied on, and which he recommended above all others, that the first word is antimony. Note, however, that the order of the text is not sequential.


by Artephius (twelfth century)

1. Antimony is a mineral participating of saturnine parts, and has in all respects the nature thereof. This saturnine antimony agrees with sol, and contains in itself argent vive, in which no metal is swallowed up, except gold; and gold is truly swallowed up by this antimonial argent vive. Without this argent vive no metal whatsoever can be whitened; it whitens laton, i.e. gold; reduceth a perfect body into its prima materia, or first matter, viz. into sulphur and argent vive, of a white colour, and outshining a looking glass. It dissolves, I say the perfect body, which is so in its own nature; for this water is friendly and agreeable with the metals, whitening sol, because it contains in itself white or pure argent vive.

2. And from both these you may draw a great arcanum, viz. a water of saturnine antimony, mercurial and white; to the end that it may whiten sol, not burning, but dissolving, and afterwards congealing to the consistence or likeness of white cream. Therefore, saith the philosopher, this water makes the body to be volatile; because after it has been dissolved in it, and infrigidated, it ascends above and swims upon the surface of the water. Take, saith he, crude leaf gold, or calcined with mercury, and put it into our vinegre, made of saturnine antimony, mercurial, and sal ammoniac, in a broad glass vessel, and four inches high or more; put it into a gentle heat, and in a short time you will see elevated a liquor, as it were oil swimming atop, much like a scum. Gather this with a spoon or a feather dipping it in; and in so doing often times a day until nothing more arises; evaporate the water with a gentle heat, i.e., the superfluous humidity of the vinegre, and there will remain the quintessence, potestates or powers of gold in the form of a white oil incombustible. In this oil the philosophers have placed their greatest secrets; it is exceeding sweet, and of great virtue for easing the pains of wounds.

3. The whole, then, of this antimonial secret is, that we know how by it to extract or draw forth argent vive, out of the body of Magnesia, not burning, and this is antimony, and a mercurial sublimate. That is, you must extract a living and incombustible water, and then congeal, or coagulate it with the perfect body of sol, i.e. fine gold, without alloy; which is done by dissolving it into a nature and white substance of the consistency of cream, and made thoroughly white. But first this sol by putrefaction and resolution in this water, loseth all its light and brightness, and will grow dark and black; afterwards it will ascend above the water, and by little and little will swim upon it, in a substance of a white colour. And this is the whitening of red laton to sublimate it philosophically, and to reduce it into its first matter; viz. into a white incombustible sulphur, and into a fixed argent vive. Thus the perfect body of sol, resumeth life in this water; it is revived, inspired, grows, and is multiplied in its kind, as all other things are. For in this water, it so happens, that the body compounded of two bodies, viz. sol and luna, is puffed up, swells, putrefies, is raised up, and does increase by the receiving from the vegetable and animated nature and substance.

4. Our water also, or vinegar aforesaid, is the vinegar of the mountains, i.e. of sol and luna; and therefore it is mixed with gold and silver, and sticks close to them perpetually; and the body receiveth from this water a white tincture, and shines with inestimable brightness. Who so therefore knows how to convert, or change the body into a medicinal white gold, may easily by the same white gold change all imperfect metals into the best and finest silver. And this white gold is called by the philosophers “luna alba philosophorum, argentum vivum album fixum, aurum alchymiae, and fumus albus “: and therefore without this our antimonial vinegar, the aurum album of the philosophers cannot be made. And because in our vinegar there is a double substance of argentum vivum, the one from antimony, and the other from mercury sublimated, it does give a double weight and substance of fixed argent vive, and also augments therein the native colour, weight, substance, and tincture thereof.

5. Our dissolving water therefore carries with it a great tincture, and a great melting or dissolving; because that when it feels the vulgar fire, if there be in it the pure and fine bodies of sol or luna, it immediately melts them, and converts them into its white substance such as itself is, and gives to the body colour, weight, and tincture. In it also is a powder of liquefying or melting all things that can be melted or dissolved; it is a water ponderous, viscous, precious, and worthy to be esteemed, resolving all crude bodies into their prima materia, or first matter, viz. earth and a viscous powder; that is into sulphur, and argentum vivum. If therefore you put into this water, leaves, filings, or calx of any metal, and set it in a gentle heat for a time, the whole will be dissolved, and converted into a viscous water, or white oil, as aforesaid. Thus it mollifies the body, and prepares for liquefaction; yea, it makes all things fusible, viz. stones and metals, and after gives them spirit and life. And it dissolves all things with an admirable solution, transmuting the perfect body into a fusible medicine, melting, or liquefying, moreover fixing, and augmenting the weight and colour.

6. Work therefore with it, and you shall obtain from it what you desire, for it is the spirit and soul of sol and luna; it is the oil, the dissolving water, the fountain, the Balneum Mariae, the praeter natural fire, the moist fire, the secret, hidden and invisible fire. It is also the most acrid vinegar, concerning which an ancient philosopher saith, I besought the Lord, and he showed me a pure clear water, which I knew to be the pure vinegar, altering, penetrating, and digesting. I say a penetrating vinegar, and the moving instrument for putrefying, resolving and reducing gold or silver into their prima materia or first matter. And it is the only agent in the universe, which in this art is able to reincrudate metallic bodies with the conservation of their species. It is therefore the only apt and natural medium, by which we ought to resolve the perfect bodies of sol and luna, by a wonderful and solemn dissolution, with the conservation of the species, and without any distruction, unless it be to a new, more noble, and better form or generation, viz. into the perfect philosophers’ stone, which is their wonderful secret and arcanum.

7. Now this water is a certain middle substance, clear as fine silver, which ought to receive the tinctures of sol and luna, so as they may be congealed, and changed into a white and living earth. For this water needs the perfect bodies, that with them after the dissolution, it may be congealed, fixed, and coagulated into a white earth. But if this solution is also their coagulation, for they have one and the same operation, because one is not dissolved, but the other is congealed, nor is there any other water which can dissolve the bodies, but that which abideth with them in the matter and the form. It cannot be permanent unless it be of the nature of other bodies, that they may be made one. When therefore you see the water coagulate itself with the bodies that be dissolved therein; be assured that thy knowledge, way of working, and the work itself are true and philosophic, and that you have done rightly according to art.

8. Thus you see that nature has to be amended by its own like nature; that is, gold and silver are to be exalted in our water, as our water also with these bodies; which water is called the medium of the soul, without which nothing has to be done in this art. It is a vegetable, mineral, and animal fire, which conserves the fixed spirits of sol and luna, but destroys and conquers their bodies; for it destroys, overturns, and changes bodies and metallic forms, making them to be no bodies but a fixed spirit. And it turns them into a humid substance, soft and fluid, which hath ingression and power to enter into other imperfect bodies, and to mix with them in their smallest parts, and to tinge and make them perfect. But this they could not do while they remained in their metallic forms or bodies, which were dry and hard, whereby they could have no entrance into other things, so to tinge and make perfect, what was before imperfect.

9. It is necessary therefore to convert the bodies of metals into a fluid substance; for that every tincture will tinge a thousand times more in a soft and liquid substance, than when it is in a dry one, as is plainly apparent in saffron. Therefore the transmutation of imperfect metals, is impossible to be done by perfect bodies, while they are dry and hard; for which cause sake they must be brought back into their first matter, which is soft and fluid. It appears therefore that the moisture must be reverted that the hidden treasure may be revealed. And this is called the reincrudation of bodies, which is the decocting and softening them, till they lose their hard and dry substance or form; because that which is dry doth not enter into, nor tinge anything except its own body, nor can it be tinged except it be tinged; because, as I said before, a thick dry earthy matter does not penetrate nor tinge, and therefore, because it cannot enter or penetrate, it can make no alteration in the matter to be altered. For this reason it is, that gold coloureth not, until its internal or hidden spirit is drawn forth out of its bowels by this, our white water, and that it may be made altogether a spiritual substance, a white vapour, a white spirit, and a wonderful soul.

10. It behoves us therefore by this our water to attenuate, alter and soften the perfect bodies, to wit sol and luna, that so they may be mixed other imperfect bodies. From whence, if we had no other benefit by this our antimonial water, than that it rendered bodies soft, more subtile, and fluid, according to its own nature, it would be sufficient. But more than that, it brings back bodies to their original of sulphur and mercury, that of them we may afterwards in a little time, in less than an hour’s time do that above ground which nature was a thousand years doing underground, in the mines of the earth, which is a work almost miraculous.

11. And therefore our ultimate, or highest secret is, by this our water, to make bodies volatile, spiritual, and a tincture, or tinging water, which may have ingress or entrance into bodies; for it makes bodies to be merely spirit, because it reduces hard and dry bodies, and prepares them for fusion, melting, or dissolving; that is, it converts them into a permanent or fixed water. And so it makes of bodies a most precious and desirable oil, which is the true tincture, and the permanent fixed white water, by nature hot and moist, or rather temperate, subtile, fusible as wax, which does penetrate, sink, tinge, and make perfect the work. And this our water immediately dissolves bodies (as sol and luna) and makes them into an incombustible oil, which then may be mixed with other imperfect bodies. It also converts other bodies into the nature of a fusible salt which the philosophers call “sal alebrot philosophorum”, better and more noble than any other salt, being in its own nature fixed and not subject to vanish in fire. It is an oil indeed by nature hot, subtile, penetrating, sinking through and entering into other bodies- it is called the perfect or great elixir, and the hidden secret of the wise searchers of nature. He therefore that knows this salt of sol and luna, and its generation and preparation, and afterwards how to commix it, and make it homogene with other imperfect bodies, he in truth knows one of the greatest secrets of nature, and the only way that leads to perfection.

12. These bodies thus dissolved by our water are called argent vive, which is not without its sulphur, nor sulphur without the fixedness of sol and luna; because sol and luna are the particular means, or medium in the form through which nature passes in the perfecting or the completing thereof. And this argent vive is called our esteemed and valuable salt, being animated and pregnant, and our fire, for that is nothing but fire; yet not fire, but sulphur; and not sulphur only, but also quicksilver drawn from sol and luna by our water, and reduced to a stone of great price. That is to say it is a matter or substance of sol and luna, or silver and gold, altered from vileness to nobility. Now you must note that this white sulphur is the father and mother of the metals; it is our mercury, and the mineral of gold; also the soul, and the ferment; yea, the mineral virtue, and the living body; our sulphur, and our quicksilver; that is, sulphur of sulphur, quicksilver of quicksilver, and mercury of mercury.

13. The property therefore of our water is, that it melts or dissolves gold and silver, and increases their native tincture or colour. For it changes their bodies from being corporeal, into a spirituality; and it is in this water which turns the bodies, or corporeal substance into a white vapour, which is a soul which is whiteness itself, subtile, hot and full of fire. This water also called the tinging or bloodcolour-making stone, being the virtue of the spiritual tincture, without which nothing can be done; and is the subject of all things that can be melted, and of liquefaction itself, which agrees perfectly and unites closely with sol and luna from which it can never be separated. For it joined in affinity to the gold and silver, but more immediately to the gold than to the silver; which you are to take special notice of. It is also called the medium of conjoining the tinctures of sol and luna with the inferior or imperfect metals; for it turns the bodies into the true tincture, to tinge the said other imperfect metals, also it is the water that whiteneth, as it is whiteness itself, which quickeneth, as it is a soul; and therefore as the philosopher saith, quickly entereth into its body.

14. For it is a living water which comes to moisten the earth, that it may spring out, and in its due season bring forth much fruit; for all things springing from the earth, are endued through dew and moisture. The earth therefore springeth not forth without watering and moisture; it is the water proceeding from May dew that cleanseth the body; and like rain it penetrates them, and makes one body of two bodies. This aqua vitae or water of life, being rightly ordered and disposed with the body, it whitens it, and converts or changes it into its white colour, for this water is a white vapour, and therefore the body is whitened with it. It behoves you therefore to whiten the body, and open its unfoldings, for between these two, that is between the body and the water, there is desire and friendship, like as between male and female, because of the propinquity and likeness of their natures.

15. Now this our second and living water is called “Azoth”, the water washing the laton, viz. the body compounded of sol and luna by our first water; it is also called the soul of the dissolved bodies, which souls we have even now tied together, for the use of the wise philosopher. How precious then, and how great a thing is this water; for without it, the work could never be done or perfected; it is also called the “vase naturae”, the belly, the womb, the receptacle of the tincture, the earth, the nurse. It is the royal fountain in which the king and queen bathe themselves; and the mother must be put into and sealed up within the belly of her infant; and that is sol himself, who proceeded from her, and whom she brought forth; and therefore they have loved one another as mother and son, and are conjoined together, because they come from one and the same root, and are of the same substance and nature. And because this water is the water of the vegetable life, it causes the dead body to vegetate, increase and spring forth, and to rise from death to life, by being dissolved first and then sublimed. And in doing this the body is converted into a spirit, and the spirit afterwards into a body; and then is made the amity, the peace, the concord, and the union of the contraries, to wit, between the body and the spirit, which reciprocally, or mutually change their natures which they receive, and communicate one to another through their most minute parts, so that that which is hot is mixed with that which is cold, the dry with the moist, and the hard with the soft; by which means, there is a mixture made of contrary natures, viz. of coldwith hot, and moist with dry, even a most admirable unity between enemies.

16. Our dissolution then of bodies, which is made such in this first water, is nothing else, but a destroying or overcoming of the moist with the dry, for the moist is coagulated with the dry. For the moisture is contained under, terminated with, and coagulated in the dry body, to wit, in that which is earthy. Let therefore the hard and the dry bodies be put into our first water in a vessel, which close well, and there let them abide till they be dissolved, and ascend to the top; then may they be called a new body, the white gold made by art, the white stone, the white sulphur, not inflammable, the paradisical stone, viz. the stone transmuting imperfect metals into white silver. Then have we also the body, soul, and spirit altogether- of which the spirit and soul it is said, that they cannot be extracted from the perfect bodies, but by the help or conjunction of our dissolving water. Because it is certain, that the things fixed cannot be lifted up, or made to ascend, but by the conjunction or help of that which is volatile.

17. The spirit, therefore, by help of the water and the soul, is drawn forth from the bodies themselves, and the body is thereby made spiritual; for that at the same instant of time, the spirit, with the soul of the bodies, ascends on high to the superior part, which is the perfection of the stone and is called sublimation. This sublimation, is made by things acid, spiritual, volatile, and which are in their own nature sulphureous and viscous, which dissolves bodies and makes them to ascend, and be changed into air and spirit. And in this sublimation, a certain part of our said first water ascends with the bodies, joining itself with them, ascending and subliming into one neutral and complex substance, which contains the nature of the two, viz. the nature of the two bodies and the water. And therefore it is called the corporeal and spiritual compositum, corjufle, cambar, ethelia, zandarith, duenech, the good; but properly it is called the permanent or fixed water only, because it flies not in the fire. But it perpetually adheres to the commixed or compound bodies, that is, the sol and luna, and communicates to them the living tincture, incombustible and most fixed, much more noble and precious than the former which those bodies had. Because from henceforth this tincture runs like oil, running through and penetrating bodies, and giving to them its wonderful fixity; and this tincture is the spirit, and the spirit is the soul, and the soul is the body. For in this operation, the body is made a spirit of a most subtile nature; and again, the spirit is corporified and changed into the nature of the body, with the bodies, whereby our stone consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit.

18. O God, how through nature, doth thou change a body into a spirit: which could not be done, if the spirit were not incorporated with the bodies, and the bodies made volatile with the spirit, and afterwards permanent and fixed. For this cause sake, they have passed over into one another, and by the innuence of wisdom, are converted the one into the other. O Wisdom: how thou makest the most fixed gold to be volatile and fugitive, yea, though by nature it is the most fixed of all things in the world. It is necessary therefore, to dissolve and liquefy these bodies by our water, and to make them a permanent or fixed water, a pure, golden water leaving in the bottom the gross, earthy, superfluous and dry matter. And in this subliming, making thin and pure, the fire ought to be gentle; but if in this subliming with a soft fire, the bodies be not purified, and the gross and the earthy parts thereof (note this well) be not separated from the impurities of the dead, you shall not be able to perfect the work. For thou needest nothing but the thin and subtile part of the dissolved bodies, which our water will give thee, if thou proceedest with a slow or gentle fire, by separating the things heterogene from the things homogene.

19. This compositum then has its mundification or cleaning, by our moist fire, which by dissolving and subliming that which is pure and white, it cast forth its faeces or filth like a voluntary vomit, for in such a dissolution and natural sublimation or lifting up, there is a loosening or untying of the elements, and a cleansing and separating of the pure from the impure. So that the pure and white substance ascends upwards and the impure and earthy remains fixed in the bottom of the water and the vessel. This must be taken away and removed, because it is of no value, taking only the middle white substance, flowing and melted or dissolved, rejecting the feculent earth, which remains below in the bottom. These faeces were separated partly by the water, and are the dross and terra damnata, which is of no value, nor can do any such service as the clear, white, pure and clear matter, which is wholly and only to be taken and made use of.

20. And against this capharean rock, the ship of knowledge, or art of the young philosopher is often, as it happened also to me sometimes, dashed together in pieces, or destroyed, because the philosophers for the most part speak by the contraries. That is to say that nothing must be removed or taken away, except the moisture, which is the blackness; which notwithstanding they speak and write only to the unwary, who, without a master, indefatigable reading, or humble supplications to God Almighty, would ravish away the golden fleece. it is therefore to be observed, that this separation, division, and sublimation, is without doubt the key to the whole work.