AN EPISTLE BY ANTONIO ABBATIA
THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS
Although I have given much information on the Blessed Art in my letter, without which, as Raymundus says, the core of the philosophy cannot be attained perfectly, I would nevertheless – because I told you that if God gave me the Grace to invent something, especially for the Red just as I have invented it for the White – reveal it to you, and I therefore wish to add this little item to my epistle, so that you might learn the perfect truth. Consequently, I will now relate in detail what I promised you before, and I will not be grudging or ungrateful as many were before me. Indeed, there will hardly be found any who did not describe the Art in a veiled manner.
By God! I do not wish to belong to their number but take pity on you. That is why I will explain to you all the secrets as much as possible, and will show you how to make the white yellow and the yellow red, which is the secret work of the wise.
Open your ears, therefore, so that nothing of which I am telling you will flow past them, because I now intend to teach you something that has never before been expounded in as clear words by a man’s mouth.
Therefore, I admonish you above everything else to diligently practice the basic sciences, so that you yourselves may correctly know the beginning of all natural things, as also their causes and elements; likewise, when and how Nature progresses from the nature of the natural things by motion and natural causes in an orderly and uniform manner.
Thus you will easily get a true understanding from the words of the philosophers who have filled their books and discourses with signs, to help their memories or to encourage their successors to investigate this high and admirable science which they have described in similes to prevent it from getting lost.
This is the reason why their books cannot be understood except by those who wrote them.
Because of this some philosophers have said that laboring according to the mere letter is a squandering of money and the corruption of the work.
Therefore I admonish you to direct all the thoughts that have come to you out of the books of the philosophers or out of your own head through your imagination, upon the natural beginnings, just as goldsmiths do who test the metals by rubbing or stroking them upon a black touchstone. Thus you should also test your opinions and imaginings by the natural beginnings and confirm them with arguments of our philosophy.
When you understand the Art in this way, especially when the sayings of the wise agree with your imaginings, then it will be right.
It is precisely this that the Master of the Art from Florence wished to tell you when he said that the artist should juxtapose and reconcile the sayings of the philosophers.
In the same way, the greatly experienced and famous Raymundus teaches in his Art that the object sought must again be brought back in a circular way according to the order of the general beginnings.
By which the truth of the whole nature is recognized just as in a mirror is seen the imagine of him who looks in it.
To summarize, I am telling you that if you do not know beforehand how to reduce all the philosophers’ opinions to one single opinion, to apply all their labor and works to an actual work, and to put all veiled discourses on solid ground, you have no right to reach out for this masterpiece. For his hands cannot accomplish anything definite whose mind is vacillating and unstable in understanding.
Therefore I am telling you once again by repeating my words that, if you desire to know the Art, it is necessary for you to know both the property of things and their transformation, to enable you to attain to the understanding of that out of which our medicine is extracted, which is impossible to do without the Will of God.
And in truth, it belongs to the deepest secrets of the Art to know the right matter that is closest to the metallic realm and without intermediaries.
By the holy Catholic faith, I cannot tell you enough, even if I were filled with tongues, how many there are who are working in the Art but not with the right matter. It is no different than if they tried to generate a human being from a dog or a horse.
And if there are some who get a hold of the right matter – of which there are so few – they nevertheless mix it with foreign things to such an extent that they spoil and destroy it.
That is why we must let them stay stuck in their error, because a camel would sooner go through the eye of a needle than that such people could achieve anything worthwhile. Therefore Raymundus has said in his Testament (or: Will) that such sophists can never attain to the science.
Likewise Gebert a layman who had been in the Art a Master of Masters, added these golden words to that view in his “Summa Perfectionis11 : “The investigator of this Art must not try to find a sophistic goal but should at all times see to a right continuation of the work. In that way he will encounter the true Art, but a sophist will not. For our Art is preserved in the power of God who bestows it upon whom He wills, and also withholds it. Who is supremely worshipful and full of justice and kindness.
For the Lord might feel inclined to withhold this Art in punishment of your sophistic work and throw you in a devious error, and from error into lucklessness and everlasting misery. For he is very miserable and luckless whom God does not show the truth after the completion of his work and labor, and he must end his life in sadness. He is subjected to constant distress and surrounded by all kinds of misfortune and misery, is deprived of all comfort, joy and cheer in this world, and he must end his life in unhappiness.
The Master of the Art of Florence, too, has penned this saying in the preface of his book: “There are many obstacles to this famous science in the artist’s way, especially when he falls into despair and begins to make a sophistic work, against which one has to be totally on guard.” The same Master speaks in the 11th chapter at the end of Part II that in this art of right investigation every sophistic work is rejected, and that the work has no enemies except the knitwits.
Further, the late Thomas de Aquino , in the Turba Philosophorum , has put the following words in the mouth of the most wise Solomont “My mouth shall speak the truth and my lips shall laugh at the godless.” He says that with his words he intends to produce a twofold effect of wisdom, namely the truth of the Alchimea-Art, which is a contemplation of the beginnings of Nature. This he shows when speaking: “My mouth shall relate the truth and conquer the errors against the truth,” on which he touches as he speaks: “And my lips will curse the godless,” that is, the falsifier. And he shows how, as it is one of two unpleasant things: pursue one and gainsay the other. Just as the medicine does which restores health and drives out disease.
That is also why Aristotle has said in Elenchis that two thing befit a wise man, first, that he does not utter any untruth and secondly, that he exposes one who utters untruths.
But let us return to our purpose. You shall now know that the matter proper is obtained from a thing which Raymundus, as I have told you, has called the Black blacker than black, and it is no other than our slimy water which derives from strong wine and which, as Hermes says, is taken from the hidden caverns of the minerals.
And I am telling you, my dear Brothers, that the same water is mentioned at the beginning, and it is imperfect, without cold, before its conjunction. But after the conjunction (the putting together) it is called a permanent water, the durable black, and thereafter it becomes a nourisher, root, stem, ground, hyle, a fragrant twig, our composition, clear water, everlasting water, growing water, Balaci, prime matter, the metals’ seed, general chaos, the hermaphroditic sex, the conceiving virgin, our cheli- donia (celandine), and Lunaria major, and it is given many other names in the books of the philosophers. They have given it so many names, and there is nothing that leads the artists so much in error as the multiplicity of the names, which however has not affected any man experienced in the Art. Consequently, do not be led astray but always remember that it is a something, although it is called by various and almost countless names.
This is also why the Turba philosophorum recommends that the many obscure names be disregarded.
This is also why Scites (This is probably a mistake in the German text, where the name is given as “Fristes”.) speaks in the Turba: “I swear to God that I have searched a long time in books to get at the science of this thing, and I prayed to God to teach me whatever it might be. But when he answered by prayer, he showed me a water which I know to be real vinegar, and the more I read books, the more clearly I saw the truth of this blessed water.”
Magister artis de Florentia (the Florentine Master of the Art) says in Chapter II: “It is a secret of this Art that one must know the heavenly hearty water of which we spoke above, which transforms our body into a spirit.”
Geber, too, in the chapter on the property of Mars, mentions it under the name of Mercurius, and says: “Praise be to the Supreme, Most Glorious and Blessed, Who has created the thing and has given it a substance, and such properties to the substance as one can neither have nor obtain from other things in Nature. In it can be found this perfection by a work of the Art. For it is that which overcomes the fire and which is not overcome by the fire but rests in it in friendliness and with pleasure.”
What other testimionies should be offered? Do not all the philosophers’ testimonies cry out that a beginning of the Art should be made with this same water and that it should also be ended with it?
This we must not forget nor interpret differently according to the will of someone else who would like to instruct us, while it is, as you may see, a work of Nature which can in no way be regulated at the discretion of our understanding. On the contrary, our understanding must be intent on being guided by it, sincetruth is nothing but a correspondence of a thing with our understanding of it, in Aristotle’s view.
Our assertion also meets with the approval of the Honorable Albertus^ in his third book on the kinds of mountains, Chapter II, which he concludes by saying that the prime matter of metals is nothing but a humid, greasy, subtle (thing), strongly intermixed and incorporated with an earthly, subtle (thing), so that there is an equal amount of both.
That is why I am telling you, my Brothers and Sons, do believe me that you must not rack your brains with other things but solely with the blessed water. Because this work, as a philosopher says, is nothing but boiling our permanent water till you see that it stays fixed and stable and no longer rises.
When you know how to work rightly, you will see our vegetable salt, our spiritualized gold, our silver, our lead, our tin, our copper, our iron, our arsenic, our Salarmeniacum (sal ammoniacus), our alum, our Kybrit (Arabic for sulphur), our milk, vinegar and children’s urine, the white honey, the fountain.
The dew of heavenly Grace, the most acid vinegar, our wine, our spice-Menstruum, the blessed nectar, and many other things which take their origin and first nature from the same water or compositum. After it is purified and prepared by our Art, it changes into various shapes and is made into many medicines which are nevertheless always one and the same thing according to their foundation and origin.
This is not absurd, for it is sufficiently explained in the philosophers’ books that a difference in the substance that does not indicate a difference in the thing itself.
Be not surprised, dearly beloved Brothers, that I have called this water a compost turn or a thing put together, because my aim is to completely disclose everything to you. I do not desire to keep anything hidden in my conscience but am giving you everything, after the Lord’s command Who speaks: What you have received freely, give again freely.
Do take heed, my Brothers, of what Hortulanus^ says: that the same water which we also call a compost turn, has two noble parts. One part, which rises, is called the unfixed; the other part which stays below is called the fixed part. Both parts are otherwise called earth and ferment.
That is why some philosophers have said in regard to these two parts that the same water is found on two mountains.
And you should know that the two parts are different in their minerals, that is, they are not rightly and well mixed. This is because one forms alone, as is said here, cannot belong to each part of the composttum in equal measure. Therefore, although for different purposes, we cause both above-mentioned parts to flow out separately by manual operation. After that, we purify each part by itself through philosophical work. Subsequently, we combine both parts till something fixed and sweet remains and a new composttum is generated.
Now do understand this, as you are in other respects subtle investigators of the Art.
That is also why Geber has put the perfection of the Magisterium neither in sulphur alone, nor in argentum vivum or quicksilver, but has said that each of them can be used in the preparation of the Lapis. The reason is that the combination of both parts does not produce our compositum from which our Lapis philosophorum comes as from father and mother. For the volatile part, which Geber calls argentum vivum because of the likeness, cannot be hardened to such an extent that it will turn into a stone, as it lacks a fatty substance which is a cause of hardness. Likewise the fixed part, which Geber calls sulphur, cannot be turned into a stone by any Art because it does not contain any moisture. The parts are therefore so loosely connected that a glue could be made of them without destroying or losing the other (volatile part).
From what I have said it is evident that both, that is the moist and the dry, pertain to the metallic nature. They are normally called a dry water, and it is the whole road to this masterpiece and its perfect end. This is known to all the wise men in this Art, namely, that the matter at hand is not perfected except solely by digestion. Now, then, nothing can be digested without that which is digestible. The digestible, however, chiefly contains two parts, a moist and a dry, as Aristotle confirms in his description in the 4th meteor. For he says that digestion leads to the perfection of its own and natural warmth by the opposite suffering one. By “opposite suffering one” he understands, as is generally explained there, the moist mixedwith the dry. For that which is really and chiefly digested in the moist becomes dry through the intermixture, by means of which it is digested by the natural warmth according to the degree of the intermixing.
But the moist cannot be digested without the dry. That is why he has added that water cannot be thickened by moisture alone.
Oh! How beautiful a philosopher has said that these two parts, that is, the moist and the dry, are called the honored stones which originally come from one father. By name they are two things and yet only one in form, whereby the secret can be accomplished naturally. Like man and wife – although they are two by name, they are yet only one in form in order to generate a son. And he is a true Master who knows how to bring these two into one, till it becomes a jewel more precious to the philosophers than gold, and to be more highly esteemed than pearls, because it resists fire, and with it the philosophers correct deficiencies both of metals and of human bodies. If the common man knew about this, he would value them greatly.
You now have, my dearest Brothers, all that you are seeking, and if you understand well and correctly what I have said, you will become aware of the error of those who want to produce the compositum from the above-mentioned thin and clear in the beginning of the work by their philosophical labor.
I am telling you that such do not know any letter, nor understand the sayings of the wise, especially of Aristotle, whohad been a signpost to Nature.
The philosopher proves in his books that there are three beginnings of natural things, namely, matter, form, and privation. In the 5th book on natural things he proves that in generation there is no motion but a change, the reason being that the Prima Materia has no active nature in itself but solely through its form. It is subject to all forms one after another, meaning, it has always one form in action or present, and the other in its power – although there is also a difference in that as some of the said forms are somewhat closer to power, others somewhat farther away. Accordingly, if one wishes to pass from one form to another, the Privation must necessarily be used. The latter is especially counted among the natural beginnings by the philosopher as it follows the previous expelled form and opens the door to a new one.
This I had to repeat necessarily because there are some fools who dare inject the excellent form of the Lapis Philosophorum into our compositurn, and yet do not know how to strip it of the previous form.
But I am telling you: where there is no destruction, there can be no new generation. A very clear example could be the Last Judgment which will take place at the end of time by order of the Creator, when everything except the prime matter will be destroyed by fire. After that incineration the bodies of men and women will rise incorruptibly. With such a process the Magisterium Naturae is also concerned.
My dear Brothers, Let each and all mark these words carefully, because great wisdom is hidden in them.
Yet another error I will disclose to you concerning our compositum from which other composita are produced. For some have dared to produce it anew, which is impossible to do because it is a work of Nature, and, without the assistance of the Art, it is hardly generated by Nature alone in a thousand years. Therefore, the Art takes the same and works in it in such a way as to accomplish and complete in one day, that is, in a short time, what Nature alone can hardly do in a thousand years.
In the same way you may now know from the above the reason why I made white gold, as I wrote you in my letter. The reason is that I only took a volatile with its greenness, which I obtained in the course of my work through the Grace of God, and I combined it with one of the great lights and then worked in this in the sophistic manner. Therefore I have become aware, after reading the epistle of Archelaus, that the work which I have just related to you was not right in the view of the philosophers.
Because of that I corrected my error afterwards, studied day and night and forever poured my prayers to the Lord, begging Him to lead me to the right way, which He did at last out of His goodness and Grace, and therefore His Mercy shall forever be praisec by me.
The words of Archelaus, however, are the following: “0 dear Sons, You will find it very useful, both in the beginning and inhe course of the work, to put fresh water on the common great lights, that is, sun and moon, because you will thereby find three things of usefulness. First, because our water is impregnated by the spirit of the fifth nature of Sol or Luna, which spirit enters it till it stands above the body of the common moon or sun. And when it is drawn from the bodies through an alembic, the spiritus stays in the water which then dissolves more easily and sooner. Secondly, it also acquires a greater subtlety and retention of the spirits which are not destroyed when they have been joined to the body. Thirdly, Sol and Luna will also increase in weight, which augmentation may be sufficient for a philosopher to maintain himself with his work till the Lapis is ready.”
That is why a philosopher said: “You must impregnate the water with a body of which you can live till the Lapis has been produced.
You must know, my Son, that if this water is added to gold and silver it can of its own accomplish wonderful things in alchemy. But if it is combined with its body, becoming a new compos i turn , it results in an excellent and almost divine work, higher than which one cannot rise in Nature.” These are the words of Archilaus, according to the letter.
Likewise Geber, who dispelled all doubts in Chapter 28 on Sulphur, which applies here: “By the Supreme God, it illuminates every body and it is of light, and it is a true tincture.” And in Chapter 23 on the Medicine which turns Luna golden-yellow he says: “But if the argentum vivum did not become red of its own, take a part of it that has not been killed and sublimate it several times with Sulphur till it becomes red like Sulphur.”
Do you now not see that in these two passages Geber has shown with sunlike clarity that the tincture comes from our Sulphur? And if someone were to omit it, he would spoil the whole tincture, as I did when I made the white gold.
Mark well, my Brothers, so that you may not be cheated in the government of the Lapis. You must read much and must often read the books of the philosophers, especially of Arnold of Vil- lanova^ , his great “Rosarium,” and of the Florentine Master of the Art, in particular Chapter 51, in which he examines very carefully all the work on the great Stone, explaining it clearly even to one who has no brilliant understanding.
Therefore I now conclude by saying that the whole work of the Artist consists in knowing and understanding the new compost turn , and how we can compose it by destroying very mean things, namely, the first compositum of Nature, by manual work, so that we may obtain the two parts, the fixed and the unfixed, from which mixture is born the king who sits on his throne, crowned with his crown, in which are Sol and Luna according to the skillfulness of the laboratory worker, and it is ternary in nature and quaternary in quality.
This is our most exalted Stone, of which Olybius has written in his Compendium that its origin is twofold, that is white and green.
That is why Raymundus has said that it has the color of a venomous lizard. But Alphidius^ said that it can be compared to the juice of the plants from which it had been pressed. In Arnold of Villanova’s view, it smells like peonies. According to the Specularium, it grows in the Red Sea. It begins to show itself above the water when the sea is moved by the wind, especially the South wind. It jumps high over the mountain tops, and it manifests with three heads, and its house is white on the outside and green inside – that is, green like grass – and it has neither doors nor windows, is without any entrance, and has a black belly and red legs that are white above the knees. It wears bracelets of various colors on its arm, and it has a sharp face, and a bosom, and it is a hermaphrodite, that is, of male and female sex, because it marries itself and becomes pregnant in one day, and in its middle age it becomes crooked, but in the end it becomes young again, and its food comes from its blood – and all this together is our compositum and our water.
Therefore Pythagoras says in the Turba’. “Oh! How very unlike are the philosophers in this very small thing.”
Likewise also Mundus the Philosopher in the Turba: “You must not pay attention to the multiplicity (of the names) of this composition which the old ones indicated in their books;
for your truth is but one which has forced the natural thing (so much) that such a secret of Nature is hidden in its belly and cannot be seen nor recognized except by the wise.”
Likewise it is written in the book of Lullius: “Be sure not to forget that you require but one thing in our work, which is our permanent water.”
Therefore, in the opinion of the philosophers, we must conclude that in our work there is only water which burns and whitens. It is water that dissolves and again hardens. It is water that putrefies and thereafter causes various new things to grow. Therefore, my Son, I admonish you that your whole endeavor be directed to the coction of the water. Spare no pains if you desire gain and fruit, and do not trouble yourslef with other unimportant things but only with the water. Boil it gradually and let it putrefy till it is changed from one color to the perfect color. Take care not to burn its flower and greenness in the beginning, and be in no hurry to accomplish the work soon. Also, close your vessel well, so that what is inside cannot fly out. Thus, if God grants it, you will reach the desired end.
Furthermore, you must know, my dear Brothers, that that compost-turn made by us, as I mentioned above, has no proper name, as the Florentine Master says. If it had one, it would certainly be called by a special name by the philosophers. That is why you must take care not to be led astray by the talks of the wise when they say that our matter is sold publicly for very little money. For then the philosophers do not understand our composi- tum which has been produced by our work out of a natural thing. Instead, they understand the same mean thing of Nature which is also a compositum in itself and has a composite nature, because in it are found the things of which our compositum is composed,but under the cover of an intermingled lump, so that, under its cover and separable wrap, it may be safe from the eyes of those who are after it and sure not to be taken.
That is also why Alexander says in his epistle when speaking of the compositum naturae, that it has no special hidden parts but that they are intermixed. Likewise Calidrosinus in the Turba, who has compared it to an egg. “Take guard,” he says, “dearest Brothers, that our discourse does not lead you into error and you thereby lose time and incur expenses, just as happened to an alchemist who had read our letter. He correctly understood from our letter that nothing can be done without our water. Then he noticed first that we call our water an Aqua vitae, and he therefore believed that our whole secret lay in the Aqua vitae. But when he saw at the end that he would be cheated, he reread our letter and read in it that we said that in the beginning of the Art something could be made with strong waters by one who knew the right practice. Now he made a common Aquafort with corrosive things, namely, with vitriol, saltpater, and cinnabar, and he tried to mix them with the Aqua vitae he had made, but it was to no avail.
For each time he wished to do it, the Aqua vitae caught fire, and he therefore had to drop the work. Again he reverted to our epistle, and he found in it a word suitable for him, namely, that we said that our Aqua vitae must be made with vinegar. He interpreted this to mean that with Aqua vitae made from wine, distilled vinegar and corrosive Aquafort, mixed together, the same water wasmade which the philosophers call a water of the vine (sic), and that their Menstruum and the whole secret lay in the method of intermixing the aforesaid things. When now he proceeded with his work, he first took the Aqua vitae from the wine, mixed it with distilled vinegar, and finally added the corrosive waters. Although it did not ignite and was not diminished in its strength, he could not do anything with it and therefore also dropped it and said that the Art was not true.
I wished to relate this to you, dear Brothers, so that you might hear how much damage ignorance can bring when the words of the philosophers are understood differently from the way they were spoken by the wise themselves.
Consequently, it is small wonder that such people are called blind men by the philosophers, since they lose their time un- productively and destroy their assets miserably.
Did I not tell you at the beginning of my epistle that a human being generates a human being, corn grows from corn, a horse is generated by a horse, a dog by a dog, each by its like. This is due to Nature, because Nature gives the same as she has in herself .
Believe me, you blind men, that nothing can be made out of nothing – which no one can do except God alone. Therefore, if you wish to make gold or silver, you must take an example by the method which Nature has put before your eyes. Do you not see how Nature does her works, and that she does not intend to do many foolish things? By these words I have almost said too much, sothat I fear I might be accused at the Last Judgment on account of my clear and explicit words.
Because of this, I would ask you not to let the report of our words get into the hands of the unworthy. I wrote it so clearly to enable even an evil or stupid person to understand it without great trouble and strenuous application.
But where you do not understand the sayings of the philosophers due to your ignorance or inappropriate imaginings, you should nevertheless, as Geber teaches you, not malign and abuse them, nor despise and reject their writings, because they describe this Art in the way required by its nature. In truth, it is as Pythagoras has not wrongly said, if everybody were to know this Art, everything in the world would go topsy-turvy.
(Which many a man inexperienced in the Art will hardly be able to imagine, while it is yet the full truth.)
IF WE ALL HAD EQUAL RICHES,
AND WERE ALSO EQUALLY HONORABLE,
AND WOULD ALL SIT DOWN TOGETHER AT THE TABLE,
WELL, MY DEAR! WHO WOULD THEN SERVE US THE DISHES?
Finally, I am telling you this, my dear Brothers, that the work which you are seeking is not difficult to find, not does it require hard labor, provided you look to Nature’s way and the mineral roots. Yes, I say yet more, and all the wise agree: Where Nature is discovered, it is only a child’s play and women’s work. When you will know that, you will be surprised that in it there is hidden such a great, dear and precious treasure, and that itis such easy work.
Now I have nothing else to say about this blessed Art except to remind you that you should not trouble and look for other things which may well glisten beautifully but are false. Nor should you seek other matters, or means, or medicines, except solely our compost turn or dry water with which, as Raymundus shows at the end of his testament, you will be able to achieve such things as are considered miracles by the common man who believes that they go against the course of human nature. And this not only in the metallic but also in human bodies, yes, also in plants and in every infirmity. You will also be able to produce the glass which can be extended under the hammer, and you will be able to transform crystals into carbuncles.
Therefore I beg and admonish you, my dear Brothers, to be sure not to be ungrateful to God for such a great boon. And do not forget to pray for my soul.
BY WHAT NAMES THE PRIMA MATERIA HAS BEEN CALLED BY THE AGE-OLD, TRUE AND TRUSTWORTHY PHILOSOPHERS
Two seeds which are not found on the earth of the living.
The sole active factor in this Art in the whole world.
The Proprium Agens.
Two gums. Item: two vapors.
The Primum agens. Item: The root moisture – The viscous and metallic fundamental moisture. Item: Two dragons, one winged, the other wingless.
A twofold or double Mercurius.
A double Mercurius, volatile and fixed.
Radix prima (The prime root).
Two souls that flow over a small river.
The triple point of the univer sal.
Two central fires.
Without Providence and God’s inspiration, no one will understand what Prima Materia is. If God blesses and endows someone with it, God at the same time bestows upon him the gift of secrecy, humility, cautiousness, and vigilance, that he should not offer it to anyone for money, as the sophists do. Therefore it is evident that their sophistry is nothing but lies, bragging, and cheating.