Alchemy rediscovered and restored by Archibald Cockren

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In this section I am placing before my readers some alchemystical teachings, together with my own interpretation of the theory of alchemy, in an attempt to clarify some of the apparent jargon in which the alchemist expressed his thoughts, and to demonstrate the scientific truth contained therein--a truth as self-evident and comprehensible as any scientific theory of today.

Instead of dealing with chemistry, occultism, and religion as distinct and separate subjects, alchemy has definitely taught the unity of all Life and Manifestation. It has attempted, and I think successfully, to correlate chemistry, occultism, religion, astrology, magic, and mythology, and to present them all as parts of the One Manifestation. It has attempted also to show that as the health and well-being of the body are as necessary to true religion as true religion is necessary to a healthy and balanced body, so occultism, elucidating as it does the unseen aspects of man, is necessary to both. By true religion, of course, I mean, not the dogmatic teaching of any one church or sect, but the Law of Life and Living; and by occultism, the manifestation of Powers working through and with Man to his ultimate perfection. That all things proceed from One Thing by the Will of the One Being, that is, that all Manifestation proceeds from one, is the axiom that lies at the root of the theory of all alchemical science. The Hermetic Tract expressed it thus: 'As all things were produced from One by the Mediation of One, so all things are produced from this One Thing by adaptation,' or, in other words, the One in Manifestation has become many. From this One, this Seed, as it were, which the alchemist has called the Alkahest, have proceeded three, Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, and again from these three have proceeded the many.

Now we must remember that these terms are used by the alchemist very much as the modern chemist uses his terms, which when all is said, convey about as much or as little to the lay mind as do those of the alchemist. The alchemist's Mercury, therefore, must not be confused with the metallic mercury which it resembles neither in texture nor appearance, neither must the Sulphur necessarily possess the qualities of sulphur as we know it, but to a student of alchemy these two substances, together with their salt, convey the idea of the Spirit, the Soul, and the Body. As Paracelsus said: "It is not, however, the common Mercury and the common Sulphur which are the matter of metals, but the Mercury and the Sulphur of the Philosophers are incorporated and inborn in perfect metals and in the forms of them."

It may perhaps simplify matters a little if I give at this point some of the alchemical terms used. The Spirit of Mercury, alternatively called the Quintessence of the Philosophers, Aqua Vitae, Water of Paradise, Azoth, Mercury of the Philosophers, has also on account of its extreme volatility been termed the Eagle, for unless its container be very efficiently sealed, it rises into the air and is lost. Now as I have stated in a previous paragraph, when this Spirit of Mercury or Seed of Metals is divided, from it issue two, the White Mercury and the Sulphur, whose oily tincture, being the golden red of the Sun, has earned for it the name of the Red Lion, the Sun, according to astrology, being in the constellation of Leo the Lion. These two, the White and the Red, are looked upon as the female and male principles, the negative and the positive, Lune the Mother and Sol the Father, or Lune the Queen and Sol the King. This idea of the male and female, or positive and negative elements, is as old as time; take, for example, the following extract from the Chinese, translated by Edward Chalmers Werner:

'Mu Kung, or Tung Wang Kung, the God of the Immortals, was also called I Chun Ming and Yu Huang Chun, the Prince Yu Huang.

'The primitive vapour congealed, remained inactive for a time, and then produced living beings, beginning with the formation of Mu Kung, the purest substance of the Eastern Air, and sovereign of the active male principle (yang) and of all the countries of the East. His palace is in the misty heavens, violet clouds form its dome, blue clouds its walls. Hsien Tung "the Immortal Youth" and Yu nu "the Jade Maiden" are his servants. He keeps the register of all the Immortals, male and female.

'Hsi Wang Mu was formed of the pure quintessence of the Western Air, in the legendary continent of Shin Chou. She is often called the Golden Mother of the Tortoise. 'As Mu Kung, formed of the Eastern Air, is the active principle of the male air, and sovereign of the Eastern Air, so Hsi Wang Mu, born of the Western Air, is the passive or female principle (yin) and sovereign of the Western Air. These two principles, cooperating, engender Heaven and Earth and all the beings of the universe, and of the subsistence of all that exists.'

At this point, too, I should explain that the metals have been recognized as the manifestation of planetary influences and named in accordance. Thus


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According to this teaching the metal is formed as the result of certain stellar vibrations or waves of energy and consequently carries the characteristic of the planet by which it is influenced. Thus:

Gold is the manifestation of the perfect metal even as the Sun is the manifestation of Life on this planet:

Silver, the colour of white, is the Moon, the negative aspect of the Sun:

Mercury, as the planet Mercury, is of a volatile nature, its surface being in constant movement:

Iron is strength and force, Mars being the planet of energy and force:

Copper is Venus, closely approaching the colour of gold, Venus being the planet of beauty, and of love:

Lead is Saturn the Tester, cold, and known in cabbalistic teachings as the root of metals:

Tin is Jupiter, the planet of benevolence and opulence.

All metals are in a constant state of progression. By this I mean that Gold, the perfect metal, stands at the head, the summit of perfection, as it were, whilst

all other metals are on the way towards eventually becoming gold; thus the alchemist merely does by art what nature does slowly through the years. Species, says Friar Bacon, are not transmuted, but rather their subject matter. It is the subject matter of the metals, the radical moisture of which they are uniformly composed, that the alchemist maintains may be withdrawn by art and transported from inferior forms, being set free by the force of a superior ferment or attraction.

Metals have always been recognized by the alchemists as living, breathing substances, each one having as its component parts Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, the difference in the consistency and characteristics of the metal being due to the proportion of these three principles one to the other. To illustrate this point, let me quote from Basilius Valentinus, one of the greatest alchemists of the fifteenth century:

'Therefore the metal of Mars (Iron) is found to have the least portion of Mercury, but more of Sulphur and Salt.

'The reader must moreover know concerning the generation of copper, and observe that it is generated of much Sulphur, but its Mercury and Salt are in an equality....

'Among all metals Gold bath the pre-eminence because the sidereal and elementary operation hath digested and refined the Mercury in this Metal the more perfectly to a sufficient ripeness. .

'Good Jupiter (Tin) possesses almost the middle or mean place between metals, it being not too hot, nor too cold, nor too warm, nor too moist, it hath no excess of Mercury, nor of Salt, and it hath the least of Sulphur in it....

'I tell thee that Saturn is generated of little Sulphur, little Salt, and much unripe gross Mercury, which Mercury is to be esteemed a froth that floats upon the Water in comparison of that Mercury which is found in Sol (Gold).'

These quotations will illustrate what I intend to convey by my reference to the proportionate relationships of the three substances.

To revert to the subject of the seed of metals, from the 'Speculum' of Arnaud de Villeneuve come these words: 'There is in Nature a certain fine essence, which being discovered and brought by art to perfection converts to itself proportionately all imperfect bodies that it touches,' so that the first matter of all metals and substances is a fixed something altered by the diversities of place, temperature, etc. This 'Essence' has always been recognized by alchemists as the Seed of Metals.

To illustrate my meaning in regard to the Seed of the Species, I quote the following from 'Ether and Reality,' by Sir Oliver Lodge (Messrs. Hodder & Stoughton):

'Matter exists not only in the organic forms of solids, liquids and gases and in the disintegrated forms of electrons and protons, it exists also as the complex molecules known as protoplasm, which for some reason or other has shewn itself to be the vehicle of life. Some forms of matter are endowed with or animated by life. This property of animation is a great mystery; we do not know what Life is, we only see what it can do. We perceive that it can enter into relation with matter, that it has a character and identity of its own, and that it builds up matter to correspond with or to represent identity. Life can take a variety of forms, and every form is characterized by a certain shape; the life of an oak is transmitted to an oak, the life of an elm to an elm. "To every seed his own body." One form of life takes the shape of a bud, another of a fish, another of a quadruped. The varieties of life are innumerable, and are studied in the great science of biology.

'Consider any piece of matter. . . . Contemplate any solid object; a vase, it may be, or a jewel, or a statue; what is it that holds the atoms together in that particular shape? If the atoms were not connected they would be moving about at random, like the atoms of a gas; but they are connected, crystallized as it were, together by the forces of cohesion. Even in a liquid they are held together into a body of definite size, though not a definite shape; a liquid has size though not shape; a gas has neither; a solid has both. The shape is most definite and law-abiding in a crystal; but in a plant or animal it has a definite character too--not so definite as in a crystal, a good deal of variety is possible, yet an animal or vegetable body has an undoubted character of its own, even to minute detail. And this character is handed down from one generation to another, modified perhaps, but only slowly, by the age-long process of Evolution.'

This extract from Sir Oliver Lodge I have quoted in full, for in the words 'to every seed his own body' lies the whole doctrine of alchemy, which has recognized a metallic seed peculiar to all metals.

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