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The operation of the alchemical elements in forty-seven revealing steps. The bodies of all natural things being as well perfect as imperfect from the original of time, and compounded of a quaternity of elements or natures, viz., fire, air, earth, water, are conjoined by God Almighty in a perfect unity. In these four elements is hid the secret of the philosophers. The earth and water give corporeity and visibility; the fire and air, the spirit and invisible power, which cannot be seen or touched but in the other two. When these four elements are conjoined, and made to exist in one, they become another thing; whence it is evident, that all things in nature are composed of the said elements, being altered and changed.
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1. The bodies of all natural things being as well perfect as imperfect from the original of time, and compounded of a quaternity of elements or natures, viz., fire, air, earth, water, are conjoined by God Almighty in a perfect unity. In these four elements is hid the secret of the philosophers. The earth and water give corporeity and visibility; the fire and air, the spirit and invisible power, which cannot be seen or touched but in the other two. When these four elements are conjoined, and made to exist in one, they become another thing; whence it is evident, that all things in nature are composed of the said elements, being altered and changed.
2. So, saith Rhasis, simple generation, and natural transformation is the operation of the elements. But it is necessary, that the elements be of one kind, and not divers, to wit, simple: for otherwise neither action nor passion could happen between them. So saith Aristotle, there is no true generation, but of things agreeing in nature. So that things be not made but according to their natures. The elder or oak trees will not bring forth pears; nor can you gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles, things bring not forth, but only their like, or what agrees with the in nature, each tree its own fruit.
3. Our secret therefore is to be drawn only out of those things in which it is. You cannot extract it out of stones or salt, or other heterogeneous bodies: neither salt nor alum enters into our mystery. But as Theophrastus saith, the philosophers disguise with salts and alums, the places of the elements. If you prudently desire to make our elixir, you must extract it from a mineral root. For as Geber saith, you must obtain the perfection of the matter from the seeds thereof. Sulphur and mercury are the mineral roots, and natural principles, upon which nature herself acts and works in the mines and caverns of the earth, which are viscous water, and subtil spirits running through the pores, veins, and bowels of the mountains. Of them is produced a vapour or cloud, which is the substance and body of metals united, ascending, and reverberating upon its own proper earth, (as Geber sheweth) even till by a temperate digestion through the space of a thousand years, the matter is fixed, and converted into a mineral stone, of which metals are made.
4. In the same manner, sol, which is our sulphur, being reduced into mercury by mercury, which is the viscous water made thick, and mixed with its proper earth by a temperate decoction and digestion, ariseth the vapour or cloud, agreeing in nature and substance with that in the bowels of the earth. --- This afterwards is turned into most subtil water, which is called the soul, spirit, and tincture, as we shall hereafter shew. When this water is returned into the earth, out of which it was drawn, and every way spreads through or is mixed with it, as its proper womb, it becomes fixed. Thus the wise man does that by art in a short time, which nature cannot perform in less than the revolution of a thousand years. Yet notwithstanding, it is not we that make the metal, but nature herself that does it. --- Nor do or can we change one thing into another; but it is nature that changes them. We are no more than mere servants in the work. Therefore Medus in Turba Philosophorum, saith, our stone naturally contains in it the whole tincture. It is perfectly made in the mountains and body of the earth; yet of itself, without art, it has no life or power whereby to move the elements.
5. Choose then the natural minerals, to which, by the advice of Aristotle, add art; for nature generates metalline bodies of the vapours, clouds, or fumes of sulphur and mercury, to which all philosophers agree. Know therefore the principles upon which art works, to wit, the principles or beginnings of metals; for he that knows not these things shall never attain to the perfection of the work. Geber saith, he who has not in himself the knowledge of the natural principles, is far from attaining the perfection of the art; being ignorant of the mineral root upon which he should work. Geber also farther saith, that our art is only to be understood and learned through the true wisdom and knowledge of natural things; that is, with a wisdom searching the roots and natural principles of the matter. Yet saith he, my son, I shew thee a secret, though thou knowest the principles, yet therein thou cant not follow nature in all things. --- Herein some have erred, in essaying to follow nature in all her properties and differences.
6. The second principle of our stone is called mercury, which some philosophers call, as it is simple of itself, a stone. One of them said, this is a stone, and no stone, and that without which, nature never performs any thing; which enters into, or is swallowed up of other bodies, and also swallows them up. This is simply argent vive, which contains the essential power, which explicates the tincture of our elixir or philosophers’ stone. Therefore saith Rhasis, such a thing may be made of it which exceedeth the highest perfection of nature. For it is the root of metals, harmonizes with them, and is the medium that explicates and conjoins the tinctures. For it swallows up that which is of its own nature and production; but rejects what is foreign and heterogene: being of an uniform substance in all its parts. Wherefore our stone is called natural, or mineral, vegetable, and animal, for it is generated in the mines, and is the mother or womb of all metals, and by projection converts into metals; it springs or grows like a vegetable, and abounds wit life like an animal, by piercing with its tincture, like spirit and life, every where, and through all particles.