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Letters 1-10 of Sendivogius
This work was published in French inTraitez du Cosmopolite nouvellement decouverts ou apres avoir donne unde idee d'une Societe de Philosophes..., Paris, 1691. This translation by Ebenezar Sibly is found in MS. Ferguson 25.
Letters 11 - 20 . Letters 21-30 . Letters 31-40 . Letters 41-55.
TO THE ROSEYCRUSIAN SOCIETY
IN AN OLD MANUSCRIPT
BY EBENEZER SIBLY M.D.
Greeting to my most honoured Friend and a most worthy Companion of the Society of unknown Philosophers. M.S.
Honoured and renowned Sir, yours and your Patron Briscius, our companions letters have been exceeding welcome to me, and I cannot express the Joy I had to hear that you have certainly and effectually been received into our Society and that there was a design on foot to settle and to enlarge our Society throughout all France, which I have have had an ardent desire long before now to bring to pass. Neither can I doubt but that such a project will succeed well; since God hath endowed you with such great Perfections in mind and good manners (as Briscius doth testify it) and I myself am able to judge by your most ingenious letters.
For this purpose then I joyfully do send you (as you have desired me) in Latin the Statutes of our Society, the observation of which let be sacred to you and be it as such recommended to our future Brethren.
Further I liberally do grant and promise you a communication of more Notions than your Patron hath yet imparted to you, concerning as well the theoretical as the practical part of our alchemy.
But then it will be necessary that you yourself labour in it, continually reading, speculating and working also, to make you able to add some things by your own industry and strength to those things such as are already revealed to you. For the rest you will find it a business of not so very high consideration as is talked of. For he that hath the key to the door can easily unlock the same.
And that you may be able to do it the sooner, I shall not be wanting to intimate to you the rocks which may stand in your way and to direct your deviating conceits, as often as you will take occasion to consult me about what you are reading or doing. And I protest to you that I will hide nothing from you except those things which you cannot learn but by ocular demonstrations and manual operations.
For every art hath its own way and manner of operating and above all, ours which cannot be expressed so well in words but that a particular demonstration and an experimental disquisition be also necessary, which for the most part answers but slowly, the hopes and expectations of philosophers.
I beg of you to take these my admonitions in good part from
Your most ready servant to all your commands,
Brussels, 9th February, 1646.
You desire to know, and truly not without reason, what books among such an infinite number, as well of ancient as modern authors, you should choose to read; for few are faithful and then if there be and which they are that write the truth, and scorn for the most part to contradict themselves, though in the main all of them do aim at one and the same thing, though in an hierogliphical style, suiting with out Cabal, our art being altogether cabalistic, which art to prostitute to the iniquity of sophisters, or to sacrifice to the lightness of the imprudent is altogether unjust and nefarious.
Let therefore your care be to choose to yourself out of such a multitude of books those that follow, and put by all the rest as being useless and unprofitable: for if you have but got the little fish called Remora (see my Novum Lumen Chymicum, page 59, in the beginning of the parable) which but one of that sort swims in the vast ocean, you need no more fishing, but only to get the Way to dress, boil and spice it.
Among the ancient books then these are the chiefest.
1. Hermes whose books are of very great nay the highest moment, in order to understand well and truly our business.
There are other writings collections out of old philosophers books, not altogether unlearned. But there are so many sophistical tricks intermingled and filled up with incubrations of other authors of none or ill repute that it is a hard matter to discern true and good traditions of faithful and approved men from others.
There are two small treatises of his; one inscribed with a posthumous name given by his commentators viz: Transitus maris rubri. The other; Appulsus ad terram promissam, both let be recommended to you before any other.
But they are rare to be had and perhaps not to be found in Europe.
I have found them in Constantinople by some Martians where having perused them I copied them for memory's sake.
2. Andernacus Paracelsus whose writings are like a clear day's sun light, but if you can light upon his Codicills which heretofore were called Psalterium Chymicum or Paracelsus his Manual make much of them. For therein you shall find displayed and clearly manifested all the secrets of our cabal, and of physick demonstrative with the whole knowledge of alchemical doctrine. This book is not so rare as the former. For I have found it at home in the Vatican Library and in several other places amongst my cabalistic brethren of our own nation. However it is not altogether so common that it were to be found everywhere. Therefore I did take a copy of this also for my own use, as I had done with the former.
All them I willingly would impart to you were it not that these did teach the same doctrine which I shall hereafter insinuate to you in the sequel of my letters, and that in a much clearer method and succintor style than they have done. Besides this his treatise De Tincturis is not to be neglected.
3. Lullius. But amongst all his writings I can only recommend to you these. His Vade mecum, and dialogismum entitled Lignum Vitae. Likewise his Testamentum and Codicillus, yet these two last with the rest of this author's innumerable writings together with those of Geber and Arnoldus de Villa Nova are almost made inexplicable because of a labyrinth of figments and unprofitable receipts so that I myself can scarcely pick out the truth to justify it.
Amongst the writers of the middle age these are good, Bonus Zacharias, Bernhardus Trevisanus, Roger Bacon, and an anonimous which hath collected authentic sentences and is called Rosarium Philosophorum which to me seems to be the sentences of men of an approved integrity and of good doctrine.
Amongst authors of latter age I esteem none faithful besides Faber, a French author, as to his last books published. For his first books are erroneous and lying.
There are some things also orthodox in the author of Physica restituta but it is interwoven with many false precepts and fallacious sentences.
But if you have a desire at they very entrance into this study to have a full knowledge and sincere information in our alchemy they let it suffice our Novum lumen chymicum, with the annexed treatise of Sulphur and the dialogue between Mercury and the Alchemist, for in this book nothing is wanting. But is is necessary that it be read with attention and over and over again. And take notice that in the same book many preposterous things of the ancient philosophers are set down and that several things and in several places are as contradictory one to the other, all which is voluntarily thus insinuated and the reconciliation of all this and the solution of doubts hence arising you shall find in other places of the same book given in express terms though in broken sentences. Pray make use to these cautions and so farewell.
Brussels 24th February, 1646.
Those sheets of Pagetins which you have sent me handling of all the parts of out art and your doubts about it and by this occasion about our Novum lumen chymicum also I have read over and over with a great deal of attention. These writings, though they are corrupt as to the principal precepts yet they do demonstrate the author to be of great genius: And as to your doubts and questions, the same do argue to proceed from an ingenium not of common sagacity and acuteness.
But what of this doctrine is to be judged you shall have it in our answer to it with the next letters and according to your desire in a scholastic dogmatical style; with familiar arguments of the chief objections and propositions instanced, the solutions of the propositions together with the examples of our proposition where it shall be needful.
Brussels, 10th March, 1646.
Our last did promise you our Judgment concerning Pagetins doctrine.
We will begin with that true, and touch that also which is false and erroneous, which shall be performed in this and our following letters, which will send as frequently as can be. Pagetins his own doctrine we shall make more plain so far as it is true by adding here and there to it what is required for its explanation and to substitute true ones for its false canons.
Your Pagetins then doth very well divide the whole matter in hand according to the custom and method of all true philosphers, viz, in two chapters.
The first treating of Nature, namely of natural productions of all things and chiefly of minerals.
The second of art, or those effects which accrue to things by art and then of the making of the Lapis Philosophorum, by whose means Gold and Silver is made by art.
What he doth teach in the first chapter comes near enough to truth, but the style he used is so concise and contract that it cannot create a sufficient knowledge of Nature's principles so as to obtain a full assent of the reader.
The second chapter of his treatise hath one thing which is very congruous to the best doctrine viz, his judgement concerning the general principles of Lapis Philosophorum, he affirming them to be a sort of Mercurius but different from common Mercury, that is from one that actually is mineral, when the former is not yet in either of the families of inferior mixed bodies, as are mineral, animal or vegetable specified and determined. And again that some sort of Sulphur be far from the common combustible and stinkened Sulphur, yet determined by some specifical form and to be under some genus of the aforementioned mixture: which form that Sulphur may impress and communicate to the said Mercury by way of Fermentation. And that the same Sulphur were rightly constituted Lapis Philosophorum.
All the rest of this book is almost false and to be rejected as you shall see hereafter,
Brussels, 15th March, 1646.
Follows the examination of the first article of the second chapter of Pagetins.
It is most certain and not to be doubted but that Mercurius the true and nearest material principle of metals and minerals, to be a warm and moist humour or vapour as we shall make it good herafter. Ergo, such a Mercurius cannot be gotten and generated in a cold and moist fountain and pure elemental water, as Pagetins will have. But it must be had out of a body and substance which is warm and moist and which is such because of preeminency of congealed air. And such is our matter which you are not ignorant of now.
Hence the error of Pegetins in this point is manifest.
But that he may not want his due praise, I must confess that hitherto I have not read any author that came nearer to the mark than he. For his substance he points at doth in all the general conditions agree with the true and genuine substance that contains the true Mercury and hath also almost all the true signatures and characters described here and there by the philosophers whereby the true Mercury and his offspring is known and discerned.
Let this suffice as to the first article.
Brussels, 20th March, 1646.
In the second article he labours to repeat the mysterious manner of extracting and also preparing Mercury out of Lullius misusing his authority and other philosopher's precepts misapplying them and ill brought in more than becomes an ingenious Man: commanding, that by distillatiion, the tenth part of his Magnesia, so first rises, as only useful and as the only true mercurial substance should be reserved; But that the nine other parts which by a continued distillation come forth, as being useless should be rejected, for this purpose that the said tenth part which was reserved should at last be restored again, to its remaining earth after a complete distillation (which earth he ridiculously esteems to be Sulphur and Salt of Mercury) and that by reiterated cohobations, inhumations, digestions, sublimations etc, described by him, all should be reunited again.
But herein he grievously mistakes, for what authors say of the tenth part that contain the spirit and of inhumation in its own earth, is to something else to be referred, than the extraction and preaparation of Mercurius as we shall demonstrate it at another time somewhere else.
There is no other rule to be observed for the said extraction and preparation of Mercurius than simply to distil the Magnesia, whereby the spirit with its oil are brought over and elevated even to a siccity of the faeces and into a separation of the spirit from the oil and which spirit is afterwards oftentimes to be rectified. But hereof we shall treat and inform you more at large in the method of operating.
Brussels, 25th March, 1646.
Follows the third and fourth article; the former of which doth assign the Minera of the Sulphur necessary for the philosphical work, and doth do it very well. For there is not other Minera for the said Sulphur than which he intimates namely Gold or Silver.
The fourth article teacheth how to extract the said sulphur out of the entrails of the said Gold or Silver, but very ill. For he prescribes to this work a dissolvant altogether heterogenous to Gold and Silver and therefore violent, viz, a certain Mercurial oil made per deliquium from Quicksilver or common Mercury often sublimed with sal ammoniac.
All which is against Nature's Intention which requires that Gold or Silver should be dissolved in order for the making of the Lapis Philosophorium in a benign water homogeneous. To these metals (I say homogeneous by homogeneity as our Cabala calls it of Principles, not of things principiated as some falsely do suppose it and are in the same error with Pagetins) that is to say the Dissolvement must be of the same nature with that Matter or substance out of which immediately your Gold or Silver was made, that matter being considered in its state of lesser composition it had before it coagulated into Gold or Silver (for there are many subordinate degrees of composition in mixed bodies, as we shall see hereafter.) But it ought not to be of the same Nature with actual material or common Gold or Silver.
And now there is no substance in the whole Nature which can have such a Homogeneity of Principles of Gold and Silver, as our Mercury drawn from our Magnesia in manner as you know. For that Mercury is but a warm and moist vapour not yet determined (as common Mercury is) in any other Family of the lower mixed Bodies, namely mineral, vegetable, or animal, and therefore it is of a more simple degree of composition than common Gold or Silver, or any other mixture can be. For all other things and therefore common Mercury also (which Pagetins makes use of) they are already determined in your said families, and therefore most of them seem to have symbolizing qualities and conditions with Gold and Silver. Yet for all that they are heterogeneous, because they are not only specifically different from Gold and Silver, but have also an opposite nature, being under a different species of the same degree of composition constituted wherein the nature and condition of their heterogeneity conists, so that our Mercury is not the vulgar must be made use of, and for an extractive Dissolvement of the Sulphur of Gold or Silver and this is the grand Error of Pagetins.
Brussels, 30th March, 1646.
The fifth article dear companion consels and will persuade us that the philosophical Egg must be made and compounded out of one ounce or there abouts of your Sulphur of Gold or Silver and with your addition of a very little quantity of his Mercury whose spirits he says that by often repeated distillations and cohobations your said Sulphur doth ingest and drives in and doth afterwards unlock all Humidity.
Thus he disputes against your sight of Nature, to make a monster which he will that your yellow of the Egg or the ferment which is the Sulphur of Gold and Silver should oftentimes throw off or separate the white of the Egg that is the thing to be fermented which is the Mercury and takes away its natural Humidity altogether necessary to a good effect of generation, and yet he will that notwithstanding all this, a philosophical chicken should be hatched or a cabalistic Coagulum should be formed.
How foolish is this notion of Pagetins be in this white. Indeed not to exaggerate since every fool can apprehend it.
Brussels, 5th April, 1646.
The sixth article dear companion doth teach and most obstinately doth hold that there are required to your boiling of your Egg four different and continually increasing degrees of fire, which indeed favours an unexperienced philosopher, if as it seems he doth understand it, of actual Fire. Hence I find reason to change my opinion which I had of the author before, namely, that he in his former articles had studiously compiled most [egregious] errors only for [dismulation] sake and on purpose to impose upon your easiness of belief. But now I do find me mistaken, seeing with what eagerness of sincerity of mind he doth maintain such a doctrine and accordingly how he doth rest the sentences of alleged authors; being it is very well known that when the authors command four degrees of fire, that it must be only refered to the virtual central fire of ferment, which fire as it must in succession of time overcome far greater elemental qualities in its Mercury in bulk and geometrical proportion much exceeding him, so it doth proceed by four degrees, till it aquires such a degree of strength as by nature is designed chiefly for the product of those four principle colours. But your external actual fire, as it is but to excite the other internal, so it ought to be of a continual gentle almost equal degree.
And these are the errors of Pagetins.
Brussels, 4th April, 1646.
Having made an end with Pagettins works it follows dear companion that I do explain and declare to you the true Hermetical doctrine.
We shall therefore even as Pagettins hath done reduce the whole to chapters . The first shall treat of Nature. The other of Art. And all shall be treated according to cabalistical principals being the best and truest, infused by God into our first parents and derived to us, not by writing, but by Tradition and Hearing, and as to that proposed method, there can be no better used.
For since Arts business is to perfect Nature and since Art cannot effect this but by immitating Nature's works; it is needful first to know that Nature's works are to be immitated before you can elucidate the manner of imitating. The first chapter then shall be divided into two members. The first shall be a treat of the first Generation or the first creation of things.
The second shall be a treat of the second Genesis or the daily natural production of things created before.
Both are neccessary for a philosopher to know who desires to learn the true principles of things, and truth contains rules. For as art doth incite the Nature, so doth Nature Creation only with this difference; that Creation supposes nothing and Nature supposes principiating principles, viz. the Elements, and Art supposes principles principiated, all of which in order, so that the perfect knowledge of Art doth depend on the knowledge as well of the first as second generation. Let this serve for a short prologue. We will pass to the matter itself.
Brussels, 15th April, 1646.
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