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John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - II. Chapter 9.

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Chapter 9
The Minor Opus in Words and Pictures

Our first concern is to separate the elements from our plant matter. You should know that the work of separating the elements from nature's subjects does not follow he same progression of the elements' generation from the supreme source. In the lab the separation of the Air element generally proceeds but sometimes follows the extraction of the Fire element. Again let us return to the words of Eirenaeus Philalethes in Collectanea Chemica: "All true philosophers agree that the First Matter is a moist vapor, raised by the action of the central fire in the bowels of the earth, which, circulating through it pores, meets with the crude air, and is coagulated by it into an unctuous water, adhering to the earth, which serves it for a receptacle, where it is joined to a sulfur more or less pure..."

Anyone who has taken the time to work through the experiments of this book will realize at once that the description given in the quote above exactly mimics the steam extraction of the volatile essential oils from a plant. Therefore, set up the oil extraction apparatus you used in the previous experiments and extract the oils from two pounds of plant material. Throughout all of this work of the steam distillation it is very important that you use only the original 2000 ml of water you started with. The high heat used to make the steam causes a breakdown of the alchemical qualities of the water. When you have finished your extractions place all of your collected oils into an amber-colored vial and store it for latter use. This oil represents the volatile fraction of our Air element.

Take the two pounds of oil-depleted herb and place them into two separate containers. Pour into each container half of the water used for the extraction of the volatile essential oils. Add enough of the universal Mercury to each container so that the water's volume exceeds four times the volume of the plant material. A large plastic five-gallon wine-making cask will serve nicely. Place a fermentation lock into the cask and leave the cask in a 27-degree centigrade incubator until fermentation is complete. Take the fermentation locks off of both casks but decant and filter the liquid from only one of them. Place cheesecloth loosely over the second cask and place it in a cool room with good air circulation.

Place all of the solid plant material along with the substance caught in the filter paper into a large steel pot. Cover the pot and place it in a refrigerator until needed latter. The liquid that has been filtered contains immature alcohol, which is our Fire element. Perform a seven fold rectification via exhalation on this alcohol and your Fire element will be quite pure. Store it in a tightly sealed bottle for later use. Save the phlegm and colored tinctures in separate sealed containers also.

Our second cask should now have started to undergo or even have completed its second fermentation. As was said earlier in the chapter about the elements "the Water element is hidden within the belly of the Fire element". This secondary fermentation of alcohol produces vinegar, which is our Water element. The sign of its manifestation is a skin of bacteria that forms on the surface of the matter. One can hasten the development of this product by inserting the hose of a small air pump underneath the surface of the liquid and by adding some "Mother of Vinager". In this way the acid forming bacteria are nourished constantly. Once your vinegar is formed, rectify it by freezing as you did when making your alkahest. After the three distillations of your final product are complete place your sharp spirit into an amber glass container and seal it tightly. Combine all residual liquids left from the purification of the Water element into one large glass pot. Add to this the tincture left from the rectification of alcohol. Reduce the liquids by boiling until a thick honey like syrup is formed. Place this substance under a heat lamp and dry to a hard gum. Grind this to a fine powder and store it in a mason jar until latter.

Having done this we must use the Fire element to extract the fixed Air from approximately two ounces of unused herb. This fixed tincture is nothing more than the second fraction of our Air element. The first, of course, were the volatile oils extracted from the plant. The second is its tincture, which also contains the smells, color, and medicinal qualities of the herb. This extraction should be done by a very gentle digestion., that is if one is planing on using the alchemical elixir of the first degree. If you do not plan on using this intermediary medicine then you can use a soxhlet extractor to obtain the fixed Air. In the latter case, we are not concerned with damage done to heat-sensitive alkaloids because all of the combined substances will go into the kiln for purification. In any event once, you have the fixed Air element, you must separate its volatile portion from the fixed part. During the digestion the Fire element also extracted some of the volatile Air. The separation of the volatile from the fixed may be done either by exhalation of the vapors (sweating) which allows the Fire and volatile Air element to come over together, or we can use a standard distillation setup. In this way though we are destroying a large part of the seminal virtues of our plant before they are amalgamated to its Earth element. In either method, place the clear liquid that you have collected in a tightly sealed mason jar and label it as the Fire and volatile Air element combined. Take the dark fixed Air left in the distillation flask and label it fixed Air of the herb in question.

Take all of the solid plant residue left from making the elements and combine them with any sediment caught in the filter papers. Place all of them into a large steel pot and take it outdoors and incinerate it. Once the plant has turned to ash, stop the incineration. Grind the ash fine and place it into a soxhlet extractor. Perform an extraction on the ash using the phlegm left from the purification of your Fire element. Continue this extraction until the phlegm coming out of the drainage tube no longer registers alkaline by litmus test. Note: If you must change water in the flask because it has become too saline you can use regular distilled water.

Once the extraction is complete pour the saline solution into a Pyrex dish and place it into an oven overnight at 100 degree F so the water will evaporate off. When dried, scrape these salts out of the dish and weigh them.

The salts after their initial extraction and evaporation. Anyone who has done some reading of Junius or Albertus will wonder why these salts are not white at this point. I do not incinerate my plant body to a gray ash or even a white one. I prefer to incinerate the matter until it no longer emits smoke when stirred. At this point the color of the matter is still black with a lot of the carbon on it. In this way, after the calcination of the matter, I get a few more grams of salt.

The salts are now placed back into the Pyrex dish and the calcination of the Earth element begins. This process of extraction, evaporation, grinding, weighing, calcining, grinding, and weighing must be done at least two more times. In the picture the final outcome of the labors engaged in is seen. The Earth element is now a pure white and is ready to be made into the alchemical elixir of the first degree.

Note: during your final solve and coagula of the salts (dissolution and evaporation) you should use just enough of your universal Mercury to impart back to the salts the flame of life. This flame was lost during the successive solve and coagulas in the sterile water of the phlegm or the ordinary distilled water.

It is really simple to make the elixir of the first degree. One need only add drop by drop the fixed Air of the plant in question onto the purified Earth element. The picture shows this elixir after the first conjunction of the fixed Air with the Earth element. When the Earth will hold no more fixed Air it is dried in the oven overnight.

We now see the elixir dried into a dark brown powder. If this powder is left out in the air it will soon begin to run and smell strongly of the herb. The elixir is usable in this stage, a few grains on the tongue yield the full taste of the herb as well as its medicinal benefits. By continually imbibing the Earth with its fixed Air, we can get the elixir to an exalted state. The whole mass in the oven will resemble tar or pitch (looking more or less like the middle right picture). When the substance is cooled it will harden considerably. When it is even slightly heated it will flow like wax and fill the room with the smell of the herb intensely.

The next course of action is to refine the Earth element one more time. If I were you, I would save one-quarter of my elixir of the first degree for use as you move on to to making a Plant Stone. Take the portion of your elixir you wish to turn into a stone and place it spoonful by spoonful into a crucible that is in a hot kiln. The elixir will smoke and bubble up considerably, so go slow in this operation. Once all of the elixir of the first degree is in the crucible add the fixed Air of the Fire and Water elements that you dried and ground fine. These two also will act as the elixir did when placed into the hot crucible, so you must add them spoonful by spoonful. Incinerate the Earth element and all of the fixed Air's until no more smoke is seen. At this point the entire mass will rest in the crucible like cooled igneous rock. Turn the kiln off and let it cool. Take the crucible out and empty it of its contents. Grind the matter to a fine powder. During the grinding, you will see shiny slivers of material like bits of crystal. Note: Be sure to wear a lab mask when grinding these salts. They are very caustic and will burn your nose severely if breathed in. Place the powder back into the crucible and calcine in the kiln for about three weeks. At the end of this time your Earth will be a beautiful pure white as shown. Only that which is essential remains of your plant. All other impurities have been burned away. As the husk is removed from the grain so have we removed the impure from the pure in our subject.

At this point we must suffer our body to die and go through a rebirth. The flame of the universal Sulfur will be lost but not the Sulfur of the body. This last Sulfur is always connected to the body of terrestrial matter. It is this Sulfur which causes matter to continually go through changes. This is the Sulfur that breaks down a corpse into its constituent parts. When nature in her wisdom makes grass from a dead body it is this sulfur that is responsible for the tearing down and building up activity. But it is the universal Sulfur that animates life's vehicles at varied stages of manifestation. Therefore place your salts back into the crucible and increase the kiln's heat to cause your matter to go into flux. Beware not to have it too high or your matter will fly away from you. Let it remain in flux until a steel wire dipped in it shows a coating of the salts as clear glass when cooled. This is a sign that the body and Sulfur are completely pure. Take the crucible out of the kiln and immediately pour the fused salts into a slightly heated iron pan or a a warm slab of marble. The salt will congeal and form a clear to somewhat opaque glass. Grind these salts and put them through seven solve and coagulas using your universal Mercury. If you do this carefully you will grow crystals with some of the most beautiful formations you have seen. When this operation is complete we have our last alchemical element, that of the Earth. All of our attentions now are to be turned to the proper manipulation of the elements.

In this way by art we are able to cause a more perfect manifestation of the essentials than what nature could have done.

For a long time after having reached this point in the operation I was stymied. At that time I was following the directions of Albertus literally. i.e. I was adding the alcohol and the essential oils of the herb onto the salts and digesting them. If one did this for a period of time they would indeed come up with a crystalline-like substance. As was said earlier it became apparent to me after some time that I would need to follow the directions given by the old masters for completing the Magnum Opus, the first item of which was the separation of the True Soul from the Body. Yet hard as I would try, I could not elicit this oil from the Earth element.

Then one day a break came and my heart was filled with joy. I knew not whether I was being led by Divine revelation or had just accidentally found the secret. Yet before me was a red oil, also known as the Red Mercury that had come from the Earth. The process for obtaining this oil was so simple that I wanted to smack myself for being so stupid. The first order of business was to capture a celestial signature onto the matter. Then followed digestion of the Earth in the two active elements (fire and air). Over time the liquid became darker and darker, moving to a burnt orange color. Concentration of this liquid was done by exhaling two-thirds of its volume. The color was now definitely a burnt orange color or that of a dark pumpkin. A small shadow of dissatisfaction hung over me, because the color of the soul should have been red like the old masters said it would be. A surprise hit me when I took the flask containing the soul outside to photograph it. When held up to the rays of sunlight the liquid took on a blood red color like that of a liquid ruby. Without a doubt I knew that I was in possession of the first essential. The red oil of the soul, which contains the celestial Fire of life within it. After the extraction of the Soul from the Earth, I noticed that the Earth was no longer solid, but moved in the flask like wax.

My next operation was to acquire the White Mercury. This was done by combining the Water and Earth elements. Then by using a water bath and a distillation train, I was able to prepare the Virgin's Milk. This substance indeed looks like milk when warm. When cool it acts like a glue and can be made volatile, hence its second name Glue of the Eagle.

Upon volatilizing the White Mercury, I thought it was time to combine the two mercuries with the residuum of the volatilization.

Much to my surprise, these three would not combine. They just formed two separate layers no matter how much I tried to unite them they would not combine. Many months of experimentation with different procedures followed but I found myself again at a roadblock.

I pondered the problem and one day while reading Collectanea Chemica an answer that seemed impossible came to me, because the substance to be used was in direct contradiction to all the writings of the old masters. Yet in its obscure wording the text seemed to be saying to use it, while also intimating at a special process. I must say here that I had done this procedure literally hundreds of times. But it was not until the illumination of wisdom from God that I was able to do the operation with understanding and achieve the aspired-for result. There is much more to this operation than the regulation of the heat. One is indeed trying to reach a certain state of friability in the matter but the problem goes further than this (technically speaking all one is doing is roasting the dried, unseperated herb at 500° - 600° C). I had done the experiment at the same temperature and from the same batch of herbs but with no success. My lab assistant tried the same experiment with no success. It is only after the soul of the alchemist matures that this reaction between himself and his matter is achieved. Until this is done no amount of heat, pounding, or washing will suffice. It is only through the grace of Divine Providence that the intricacies of this procedure can be understood.

To help you in your quest of one day gaining this understanding I quote here the key part of the text in its entirety. "... for the seed of metals is sown in corruption, and raised in incorruption; it is sown a natural body, and raised a spiritual body; it is known to partake of the curse which came upon the earth for man's sake, having in its composition a deadly poison, which can only be separated by a regeneration in Water and Fire..."

I next had to see if the product would work. Upon conjunction of the Water and Fire elements onto the specially prepared Body, I felt an increase of heat in the test tube. For some reason I decided to seal the tube and place it into a 37 degrees C incubator overnight. The next morning upon opening the incubator and examining the test tube, tears came to my eyes. I fell to my knees and thanked Divine Providence for the blessing it had bestowed upon me. The body had drunk the liquids completely and had been colored white and pink like a marble. When I felt the contents of the tube in my hand it had a creamy texture. I immediately tried the experiment over again this time using the Red and White Mercuries. The next morning the anticipated outcome had been achieved. The path before me had opened up and was cleared of all doubt.

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