Of Antimony Vulgar (Alchemical Manuscripts Book 13)

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It is positively charged, the charge being neutralised by that of the free electrons which revolve like planets about it, and which by their orbits account for the [viii] volume of the atom. The atomic weight of the element depends upon the central sun; but the chemical properties of the element are determined by the number of electrons in the shell; this number is the same as that representing the position of the element in the periodic system. Radioactive change originates in the atomic nucleus.


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This results in the addition of an electron to the shell, and hence changes the chemical character of the element, transmuting it into one occupying a position one place to the right in the periodic system, but without altering its atomic weight. These advances in knowledge all point to the possibility of effecting transmutations at will, but so far attempts to achieve this, as I have already indicated, cannot be regarded as altogether satisfactory.

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The energy that would be liberated, if the control of these sub-atomic processes were as possible as is the control of ordinary chemical changes, such as combustion, would far exceed in importance and value the gold. Rather it would pay to transmute gold into silver or some base metal.

Since the words were first written a work has appeared in which something approximating to what was suggested has been attempted and very admirably achieved. My reference is to Mr. In conclusion I should like to thank the very many reviewers who found so many good things to say concerning the first edition of this book. For kind assistance in reading the proofs of this edition my best thanks are due also and are hereby tendered to my wife, and my good friend Gerald Druce, Esq.

October , The number of books in the English language dealing with the interesting subject of Alchemy is not sufficiently great to render an apology necessary for adding thereto.

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Indeed, at the present time there is an actual need for a further contribution on this subject. The time is gone when it was regarded as perfectly legitimate to point to Alchemy as an instance of the aberrations of the human mind. Recent experimental research has brought about profound modifications in the scientific notions regarding the chemical elements, and, indeed, in the scientific concept of the physical universe itself; and a certain resemblance can be traced between these later views and the theories of bygone Alchemy.

The basic idea permeating all the alchemistic theories appears to have been this: All the metals and, indeed, all forms of matter are one in origin, and are produced by an evolutionary process. The Soul of them all is one and the same; it is only the [xii] Soul that is permanent; the body or outward form, i.

The similarity, indeed it might be said, the identity, between this view and the modern etheric theory of matter is at once apparent. The old alchemists reached the above conclusion by a theoretical method, and attempted to demonstrate the validity of their theory by means of experiment; in which, it appears, they failed.

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Modern science, adopting the reverse process, for a time lost hold of the idea of the unity of the physical universe, to gain it once again by the experimental method. It was in the elaboration of this grand fundamental idea that Alchemy failed. If I were asked to contrast Alchemy with the chemical and physical science of the nineteenth century I would say that, whereas the latter abounded in a wealth of much accurate detail and much relative truth, it lacked philosophical depth and insight; whilst Alchemy, deficient in such accurate detail, was characterised by a greater degree of philosophical depth and insight; for the alchemists did grasp the fundamental truth of the Cosmos, although they distorted it and made it appear grotesque.

The alchemists cast their theories in a mould entirely fantastic, even ridiculous—they drew unwarrantable analogies—and hence their views cannot be accepted in these days of modern science. But if we cannot approve of their theories in toto , we can nevertheless appreciate the fundamental ideas at the root of them. And it is primarily with the object of pointing out this similarity between these ancient ideas regarding the physical [xiii] universe and the latest products of scientific thought, that this book has been written.

It is a regrettable fact that the majority of works dealing with the subject of Alchemy take a one-sided point of view.


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The chemists generally take a purely physical view of the subject, and instead of trying to understand its mystical language, often I do not say always prefer to label it nonsense and the alchemist a fool. On the other hand, the mystics, in many cases, take a purely transcendental view of the subject, forgetting the fact that the alchemists were, for the most part, concerned with operations of a physical nature.

For a proper understanding of Alchemy, as I hope to make plain in the first chapter of this work, a synthesis of both points of view is essential; and, since these two aspects are so intimately and essentially connected with one another, this is necessary even when, as in the following work, one is concerned primarily with the physical, rather than the purely mystical, aspect of the subject.

Now, the author of this book may lay claim to being a humble student of both Chemistry and what may be generalised under the terms Mysticism and Transcendentalism; and he hopes that this perhaps rather unusual combination of studies has enabled him to take a broad-minded view of the theories of the alchemists, and to adopt a sympathetic attitude towards them. With regard to the illustrations, the author must express his thanks to the authorities of the British Museum for permission to photograph engraved portraits and illustrations from old works in the [xiv] British Museum Collections, and to G.

Gabb, Esq. Weston, Esq. Llewellyn, Esq. The Polytechnic, London, W. October, Alchemy was both a philosophy and an experimental science, and the transmutation of the metals was its end only in that this would give the final proof of the alchemistic hypotheses; in other words, Alchemy, considered from the physical standpoint, was the attempt to demonstrate experimentally on the material plane the validity of a certain philosophical view of the Cosmos. Waite, , vol. By some mystics, however, the opinion has been expressed that Alchemy was not a physical art or science at all, that in no sense was its object the manufacture of material gold, and that its processes were not carried out on the physical plane.

Those who hold this view identify Alchemy with, or at least regard it as a branch of, Mysticism, from which it is supposed to differ merely by the employment of a special language; and they hold that the writings of the alchemists must not be understood literally as dealing with chemical operations, with furnaces, retorts, alembics, pelicans and the like, with salt, sulphur, mercury, gold and other material substances, but must be understood as grand allegories dealing with spiritual truths. It would follow, of course, if this theory were true, that the genuine alchemists were pure mystics, and hence, that the development of chemical science was not due to their labours, but to pseudo-alchemists who so far misunderstood their writings as to have interpreted them in a literal sense.

This theory, however, has been effectively disposed of by Mr. Arthur Edward Waite, who points to the lives of the alchemists themselves in refutation of it. For their lives indisputably prove that the alchemists were occupied with chemical operations on the physical plane, and that for whatever motive, they toiled to discover a method for transmuting the commoner metals into actual, material gold. But they devote themselves diligently to their labours, sweating whole nights over fiery furnaces. These do not kill the time with empty talk, but find their delight in their laboratory.

There is not the slightest doubt that chemistry owes its origin [4] to the direct labours of the alchemists themselves, and not to any who misread their writings.

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At the same time, it is quite evident that there is a considerable element of Mysticism in the alchemistic doctrines; this has always been recognised; but, as a general rule, those who have approached the subject from the scientific point of view have considered this mystical element as of little or no importance. However, there are certain curious facts which are not satisfactorily explained by a purely physical theory of Alchemy, and, in our opinion, the recognition of the importance of this mystical element and of the true relation which existed between Alchemy and Mysticism is essential for the right understanding of the subject.

We may notice, in the first place, that the alchemists always speak of their Art as a Divine Gift, the highest secrets of which are not to be learnt from any books on the subject; and they invariably teach that the right mental attitude with regard to God is the first step necessary for the achievement of the magnum opus. Therefore, if any man desire to reach this great and unspeakable Mystery, he must remember that it is obtained not by the might of man, but by the grace of God, and that not our will or desire, but only the mercy of the Most High, can bestow it upon us. For this reason you must first of all cleanse your [5] heart, lift it up to Him alone, and ask of Him this gift in true, earnest, and undoubting prayer.

He alone can give and bestow it. In the second place, we must notice the nature of alchemistic language. As we have hinted above, and as is at once apparent on opening any alchemistic book, the language of Alchemy is very highly mystical, and there is much that is perfectly unintelligible in a physical sense.

Indeed, the alchemists habitually apologise for their vagueness on the plea that such mighty secrets may not be made more fully manifest. It is also [6] true that the alchemists, no doubt, desired to shield their secrets from vulgar and profane eyes, and hence would necessarily adopt a symbolic language. But it is past belief that the language of the alchemist was due to some arbitrary plan; whatever it is to us, it was very real to him. Moreover, this argument cuts both ways, for those, also, who take a transcendental view of Alchemy regard its language as symbolical, although after a different manner.

It is also, to say the least, curious, as Mr. Waite points out, that this mystical element should be found in the writings of the earlier alchemists, whose manuscripts were not written for publication, and therefore ran no risk of informing the vulgar of the precious secrets of Alchemy.

On the other hand, the transcendental method of translation does often succeed in making sense out of what is otherwise unintelligible in the writings of the alchemists.

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We are not here referring to the illustrations of actual apparatus employed in carrying out the various operations of physical Alchemy, which are not infrequently found in the works of those alchemists who at the same time [7] were practical chemists Glauber, for example , but to pictures whose meaning plainly lies not upon the surface and whose import is clearly symbolical, whether their symbolism has reference to physical or to spiritual processes. Examples of such symbolic illustrations, many of which are highly fantastic, will be found in plates 2 , 3 , and 4.

We shall refer to them again in the course of the present and following chapters. We must also notice that, although there cannot be the slightest doubt that the great majority of alchemists were engaged in problems and experiments of a physical nature, yet there were a few men included within the alchemistic ranks who were entirely, or almost entirely, concerned with problems of a spiritual nature; Thomas Vaughan, for example, and Jacob Boehme, who boldly employed the language of Alchemy in the elaboration of his system of mystical philosophy.

1. The Aim of Alchemy

And particularly must we notice, as Mr. It is clear, that in spite of its apparently physical nature, Alchemy must have been in some way closely connected with Mysticism. If we are ever to understand the meaning of Alchemy aright we must look at the subject from the alchemistic point of view. Alchemy had its origin in the attempt to apply, in a certain manner, the principles of Mysticism to the things of the physical plane , and was, therefore, of a dual nature, on the one hand spiritual and religious, on the other, physical and material.

We shall here quote the opinions of two modern writers, as to the significance of Alchemy; one a mystic, the other a man of science. Says Mr.


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They [the generality of alchemists] applied their theory only to the development of metallic substances from a lower to a higher order, but we see by their writings that the grand hierophants of Oriental and Western alchemy alike were continually haunted by brief and imperfect glimpses of glorious possibilities for man, if the evolution of his nature were accomplished along the lines of their theory.

Pattison Muir, M. The practical culmination of the alchemical quest presented a threefold aspect; the alchemists sought the stone of wisdom, for by gaining that they gained the control of wealth; they sought the universal panacea, for that would give them the power of enjoying wealth and life; they sought the soul of the world, for thereby they could hold communion with spiritual existences, and enjoy the fruition of spiritual life.

The object of their search was to satisfy their material needs, their intellectual capacities, and their spiritual yearnings. The alchemists of the nobler sort always made the first of these objects subsidiary to the other two. The dogma that Alchymy was only a form of chemistry is untenable by any one who has read the works of its chief professors.

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Pattison Muir , M. The alchemists postulated and believed in a very real sense in the essential unity of the Cosmos. Hence, they held that there is a correspondence or analogy existing between things spiritual and things physical, the same laws operating in each realm. Thus the Sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror; and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals; he jealously conceals it from the sinner and the scornful, lest the mysteries of heaven should be laid bare to the vulgar gaze.

In gold, the alchemist saw a picture of the regenerate man, resplendent with spiritual beauty, overcoming all temptations and proof against evil; whilst he regarded lead—the basest of the metals—as typical of the sinful and unregenerate man, stamped with the hideousness of sin and easily overcome by temptation and evil; for whilst gold withstood the action of fire and all known corrosive liquids save aqua regia alone , lead was most easily acted upon.

With the theories of physical Alchemy we shall deal at length in the following chapter, but enough has been said to indicate the analogy existing, according to the alchemistic view, between the problem of the perfection of the metals, i. To the alchemistic philosopher these three problems were one: the same problem on different planes of being; and the solution was likewise one. He who held the key to one problem held the key to all three, provided he understood the analogy between matter and spirit. The point is not, be it noted, whether these problems are in reality one and the same; the main doctrine of analogy, which is, indeed, an essential element in all true mystical philosophy, will, we suppose, meet with general consent; but it will be contended and rightly, we think that the analogies drawn by the alchemists are fantastic and by no means always correct, though possibly there may be more truth in them than appears at first sight.

The point is not that these analogies are correct, but that they were regarded as such by all true alchemists. It shadows forth, in a wonderful manner. I have briefly and simply set forth to you the perfect analogy which exists between our earthly and chemical and the true and heavenly Stone, Jesus Christ, whereby we may attain unto certain beatitude and perfection, not only in earthly but also in eternal life.

For the most part, the alchemists were chiefly engaged with the carrying out of the alchemistic theory on the physical plane, i. There were a few who had a [14] clearer vision of this ideal, those who devoted their activities entirely, or almost so, to the attainment of this highest goal of alchemistic philosophy, and concerned themselves little if at all with the analogous problem on the physical plane. The theory that Alchemy originated in the attempt to demonstrate the applicability of the principles of Mysticism to the things of the physical realm brings into harmony the physical and transcendental theories of Alchemy and the various conflicting facts advanced in favour of each.

It explains the existence of the above-mentioned, two very different types of alchemists. It explains the appeal to the works attributed to Hermes, and the presence in the writings of the alchemists of much that is clearly mystical. And finally, it is in agreement with such statements as we have quoted above from The Sophic Hydrolith and elsewhere, and the general religious tone of the alchemistic writings.

In accordance with our primary object as stated in the preface, we shall confine our attention mainly to the physical aspect of Alchemy; but in order to understand its theories, it appears to us to be essential to realise the fact that Alchemy was an attempted application of the principles of Mysticism to the things of the physical world.